Zambia set for bumper harvest
The country is projecting a bumper harvest of 1,2 million tonnes of maize. The Food Reserve Agency has set this year’s floor price for maize at 38 000 kwacha per bag and plans to buy 150 000 tonnes of the grain from farmers countrywide. Board chairman of the agency, Costain Chilala, told journalists at a Press briefing in Lusaka that the agency had K70 billion to buy 80 000 tonnes of maize but was engaging the government for an extra K70 billion to meet the target of 150 000 tonnes. The agency would also buy 2 400 tonnes of cassava from farmers at K25 000 per 50kg bag, 1 200 tonnes of rice at K40 000 per 50kg bag, 1 200 tonnes of soya beans at K40 000 per 50kg bag and 1 200 tonnes of groundnuts at K50 000 per 50kg bag. During the 2006-07 season, the agency planned not to sell any maize to millers and urged them and other grain users to buy enough stocks to last up to the May 2007 crop marketing season as it would hold the purchased crop in the strategic reserve. He said the agency floor price was just indicative and farmers were free to negotiate with grain traders as well as millers in the sale of maize. “We are calling on the private sector, especially millers, to go out there and buy the crops grown by farmers this year. This is in line with the government policy to see a private sector-driven agricultural industry,” Chilala said. The agency would operate in 57 districts, which traditionally were known to have surplus agricultural production, but due to budgetary constraints, crop purchasing would be mostly done at main holding depots in the districts under special instances. Co-operative unions and the farmer organisations were expected to do their part of crop marketing by mopping crops from outlying areas of designated districts. In line with the government policy of capacity building, the agency would give priority to district co-operative unions and farmer organisations when appointing warehouse managers. Chilala said the agency would continue to outsource from the private sector paying points to farmers from commercial banks, maize transportation from transporters as well as fumigation of crops from private operators’ fumigators. The agency would start the crop marketing season around May 25 when crops were sufficiently dry and the exercise was expected to end by September 30. Chilala warned that no crop would be accepted at the agency depots after the set date and, thus, appealed to all farmers to sell their commodity between the announced dates. He appealed to farmers to be involved in crop marketing to apply themselves diligently and ensure the exercise went on smoothly. Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) has released K9 billion for road infrastructure development in North-Western Province of Zambia. Outgoing North Western Province permanent secretary Denny Lumbama said the EU had released the funds to gravel Kabompo-Zambezi, Manyinga-Mwinilunga and Solwezi-Kipushi roads. “The European Union has pumped K3,4 billion to regravel Kabompo-Zambezi road, K4 billion for Mwinilunga-Manyinga road and K2,6 billion for Solwezi-Kipushi road,” Lumbama said. He said the province had received another K2,6 billion from the government for feeder roads. He said the government wanted to improve infrastructure in the province to supplement investors’ efforts to develop the area. Lumbama said the government had constructed eight houses at a cost of K1,1 billion in Solwezi for civil servants which would be occupied in due course. “The government office block in Chavuma district will be completed very soon at a cost of K354 million and the government also spent K240 million to reconstruct Chief Ndungu’s Mize local court, which had collapsed,” he said. Lumbama added that the government was also constructing offices for the Auditor General at a cost of K2,2 billion and Anti-Corruption Commission at a cost of K1,8 billion. “A lot of money is coming into the province to improve infrastructure to boost the economy of the province,” he said. Lumbama said the Ministry of Home Affairs had released K1,2 billion for water reticulation in police camps in Solwezi district. Lumbama urged people to branch into honey production because of high demand on the international market. He said if people started diversifying now even when minerals were exhausted the economy of the province would continue to thrive because of other economic avenues, which would continue to bring revenue in the province. Lumbama explained that the government had engaged experts to redesign Solwezi town so that it could project the face of the economic activities obtaining in the province. He said the government would not allow unplanned settlements to mushroom in Solwezi as doing so could block land for infrastructure development. Lumbama said Lumwana Copper Mine had already come up with a town plan which experts were still analysing to see if it had buffer zones for the establishment of small holdings.