The Food Reserve Agency (FRA) has apologized to the farming community following its decision not to buy soya beans in the 2022/2023 marketing season.
FRA Board Chairman Kelvin Hambwezya says the agency is sorry for the inconvenience it has caused to the farmers by not buying soya beans from them.
Mr Hambwezya stated that the agency reached the decision not to buy soya beans from the farmers with a heavy heart.
“Ideally, crops that are supported by FISP, it is a natural expectation that the FRA will procure them, soya beans is one such crop and it is with a heavy heart that as an agency we made that decision, it is not pleasing,” He said.
Mr Hambwezya however said the agency won’t sit idle but rather work with other stakeholders in the soya beans sector and assist farmers sell their soya beans.
“It was abrupt, I am very sorry of course for the inconvenience this could have caused to the farmers but what I would like to say is that we are not going to sit idle. We are going to work with other stakeholders and make sure that we assist farmers,” He said.
Mr Hambwezya said this last evening when He featured on ZNBC weekly Sunday interview programme on TV 1.
And when asked whether the decision not to purchase soyabeans was made abruptly after issuing a government gazette indicating that the agency would buy 50 thousand metric tons of soybeans?
Mr Hambwezya in response refuted claims that the decision not to buy soya beans was made abruptly.
He explained that the gazette indicating that FRA would buy 50 thousand metric tons of soyabeans was issued by management who were later guided by the board that the agency was not going to buy soyabeans as published in the press.
“No the decision was not abrupt, you know as FRA we don’t announce what we do on a daily basis to the public,” Mr Hambwezya stated.
The FRA Board Chairman admitted seeing the gazette issued by management however indicate that the matter is now water under the bridge.
“Yes management we want and issued the gazette, I saw it in the press anyway that’s water under the bridge. The truth was that the board guided management that we would not buy soya beans, the reasons that I gave you,” Mr Hambwezya.
Meanwhile FRA has assured soya beans farmers that it will move in to buy soya beans once it offloads the correcting stocks it is holding in the national reserves.
Mr Hambwezya said the agency will definitely move in to buy soya beans from the small scale farmers should it find the market for the soya beans it holds in the reserves.
“If we manage to offload the soya beans we have now there is no doubt we will go into the market to buy soya beans,” He said.
Mr Hambwezya expressed optimism during the live programme that soon FRA would soon sell the carryover stocks of soya beans.
He hinted that the agency was today 29th May Monday expected to meet a delegation from Indian and other groups that want to buy the soya beans from FRA.
“Will be selling it very soon. There is a delegation from India that we will be talking to tomorrow (Monday 29th ) and other groups that are coming around, we are hoping to sell that soya beans, if we sell it very soon we will enter the market to buy soya beans,” He indicated.
And FRA has implored soya beans players in the private sector not to exploit the small scale farmers but rather buy at a fair price and export outside the country.
Mr Hambwezya revealed that the Ministry of Agriculture is offering an open door to anyone wishing to export soya beans outside Zambia.
“However, this is an opportunity for the private sector not to exploit the farmers but to buy the soya beans from the small scale farmers and take it for export, the Minister of Agriculture is clear, the doors are open for export for soya beans only, “he added.
He stressed that the private sector has a huge role to play in the buying of the soya beans from the small scale farmers.
The FRA Board Chairman said this year the country is expecting seven hundred and 80 thousand metric tons of soybeans.
He disclosed that the current local consumption of soya beans for both domestic and industrial standards is three hundred thousand metric tons.
Mr Hambwezya said the country has an excess of up to six hundred thousand metric tons of soya beans sitting with the farmers.