Zambia ups strategic maize reserves
Lusaka – Zambia has raised its strategic maize reserves to 750 000 tonnes this year from an initial 500 000t planned for after it met its target, as demand for Zambian maize from other countries in the region continues.
The country was projected to yield over 3 million tonnes of maize during the just-ended farming season, part of which the government said would be exported to neighbouring countries including Kenya, among other countries seeking to stock up on food as drought and other climatic factors continue to haunt the continent with many countries harvesting little.
Officials at Zambia’s Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives said government has sought to revise its food strategic reserves to 750 000t ‑ up 250 000t from the initial projections after it was satisfied that there would be abundant food stocks in the country.
Recently, Agriculture Deputy Minister, Greyfold Monde, said it was the government’s desire to ensure that all the maize harvested across the country is ferried to storage sheds and be bought by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) for safe storage.
The agency has since been directed to ensure that no grain goes to waste and that there is need to continue buying the maize from small-scale farmers even after meeting the target.
Early this year, the World Bank advised the Zambian government against policy inconsistencies especially on maize purchases, saying buying beyond its targets would cloud out private sector participation.
Monde stated that considering the increased harvest, there is need for the FRA to step up its buying of maize from various small-scale farmers’ countryside.
The ministries of agriculture and finance are strategising on how to raise adequate resources to ensure all the 3.3 million tonnes of maize is bought and safely stored.
The projected maize bumper harvest of 3.5 million tonnes this year meant an additional one million tonnes on last year’s harvest and therefore the demand from farmers to sell their crop was still high. Zambia consumes an average 800 000t per month, with part of it used in the industrial sector.
This year’s harvest of 3.3 million tonnes for Zambia is in excess of 2.8 million it harvested during the previous season.
This has chiefly been achieved in the country through the government’s provision of farm input packs of fertiliser and seed dubbed ‘Food Security Input Programme (FSIP)’, which are sold to the farmers at subsidised prices.
Zambia has in recent years been besieged by its neighbours, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, DR Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, among other countries seeking to import maize from the country following poor seasons characterised by devastations on the crops.
Recently, Zimbabwe requested over 500 000t of maize from Zambia with Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, among others, asking over 100 000t to meet their food needs.