Zambia to review maize floor price

Previously farmers were forced to sell their maize at ZMK15, 000 (US$3) for 50kg bag of maize before FRA revised the price to ZMK38, 000 to enable farmers make profit from the crop.

Having purchased 172, 000 tonnes of the targeted 200, 000 tonnes maize since it embarked on the exercise two months ago, the quasi-government agency is considering reviewing the purchase price to more than ZMK40, 000 (US$10) per 50 kilogramme bag from the ZMK38, 000 (US$9) it offered for the same quantity.

The FRA envisions that revising the floor price would ensure a fair selling platform for subsidized and non-subsidized recipients of fertilizer, under the Fertilizer Support Programme (FSP) and enable farmers realise profit.

According to FRA, the current floor price did not match the cost of producing the grain and other economic factors involved in the process.

FRA board member Webster Shamfuti said the change from ZMK38, 000 per 50kg bag of maize last year to the current price was minimal and there was need to further review the price to encourage farmers.

He said FRA in collaboration with other players had agreed on the current price of ZMK38, 000 per 50 kg bag, adding that it would be imperative to adjust the prices to meet production needs and boost Zambia’s capacity to grow enough and be self-sustaining.

“Maize pricing is usually done by experts from the ministry of agriculture and co-operatives, FRA, Zambia National Farmers Union and other stakeholders in the sector,” he said.

The FRA is currently buying maize from small-scale farmers countrywide and the crop purchase exercise would end by September 30.

Some players in the maize marketing programme have welcomed the intentions by the FRA to review upwards the floor price.

Samfya District co-coordinator Ananyama Muthemwa said there was need for the agency to review the pricing of maize because various economic factors were involved and were a cost to the farming community.

“I’m urging the FRA to expedite the review of market trends and the price of seed, fertilizers, chemicals and other agricultural inputs, before arriving at the floor price so that farmers can make a profit out of the sale of the crop,” he said.

Other players contend that despite efforts ploughed into growing the country’s staple food, FRA had not reciprocated, as most of the crops destined for sale at FRA depots remained unsold forcing the ‘desperate farmers’ to give away their produce to unscrupulous buying agents at cheaper prices. However, FRA Acting Food Reserve and Marketing Manager, Richard Lisimba said the government was determined to purchase more maize from the farmers and other players before the onset of the rains.

“I have no doubt we may buy up to 300, 000 tonnes, as 200, 000 tonnes is meant for strategic reserves, while the 100, 000 tonnes is destined for exports, although the demand is higher than that,” he told Southern Times in Lusaka recently.

Lisimba said the government has allowed the FRA to export more than 100,000 tonnes of maize and would be expected to increase beyond 300, 000 tonnes because of the increased demand, said Lisimba. The proceeds from the sale would be ploughed back into the purchasing programme.

He explained that the government, through the FRA was committed to ensuring that enough food was procured and stoked in various reserve sheds to avert hunger in the event of drought as was the case before, which had resulted in food shortages.

Zambia has produced more than 1.6 million metric tonnes of maize during the 2005/2006 season.

Besides purchasing maize, FRA has been mandated to procure 2,400 tonnes of cassava, 1,200 tonnes of rice, 1,200 tonnes of soya beans and 1,200 tonnes of groundnuts.

It seeks to retain more than 90 per cent of the grain and export more than 300, 000 metric tonnes to the Southern African region and beyond.

September 2006
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