Region turns to Zambia for grain

FRA Managing Director, Anthony Mwanaumo said some of the countries were Namibia, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

FRA has had inquiries from Namibia for the provision of maize through the Zambian mission in that country, according to Mwanaumo, while Zambian, Zimbabwean and DR Congo officials recently met and discussed the modalities of sharing food.

According to Zambia’s quasi-Food Reserve Agency, the five countries are all requesting to be supplied with 50,000 tones of maize each to meet the demands of the people affected by hunger after crop failures last season.

The Zambian government has endorsed FRA’s plans to export 100,000 tonnes of maize to neighbouring countries to counter the food deficit. Once the export permits were given, FRA was expected to increase the available food requirements being sought from Zambia because potential importers would inquire for the grain.

According to Mwanaumo, the traditional export window, once opened next month, would also enhance FRA’s ability to respond to inquiries from maize importers in the region.

The export of 100,000 tonnes of maize would provide the liquidity to the FRA to enable it purchase maize from local farmers.

Many are reportedly struggling to sell their crops to the agency after it remained uncollected for several reasons including lack of packaging material.

“If the agency is unable to export, it would have to borrow money from commercial banks and buy more crops from the farmers.”

Meanwhile, the Zambia National Farming Union (ZNFU) said commercial farmers in the country are set to sell all their 100,000 tonnes of maize produced to FRA, which would, in turn, export half of the 200,000 tonnes in the agency’s reserves.

Zambia’s largest farming group supports the government’s decision to allow only the FRA to export maize. Costain Chilala, FRA board chairperson, doubted whether there were commercial farmers that had applied directly to the ministry for maize export permits explaining that there had not been requests from farmers asking for maize export permits from government because it made it clear to the stakeholders that only FRA was mandated to export half of the surplus to the needy countries in the region.

FRA had sought ZMK45 billion (US$11 million) from two local commercial banks, bringing the finance portfolio to ZMK101 billion (US$25.2 million) for the 2006 crop marketing season.

Earlier the FRA chairperson explained that the acquisition of ZMK45 billion (US$11 million) from commercial banks translated to 59,000 tonnes of maize.

Chilala said the FRA was prepared to purchase 200,000 metric tonnes of maize from the 80,000 metric tonnes originally projected in May 2006.

An estimated 71,000 tonnes has been purchased and stocked by the FRA in various silos from the ZMK54 billion (US$14 million) secured, bringing the total maize in stock to about 82,000 tonnes.

The combined effect of improved funding would facilitate the purchases of targeted quality maize before the onset of the rains.

August 2006
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