ZAMBIA National Farmers Union president Jervis Zimba says the Food Reserve Agency is a briefcase buyer this marketing season following its decision to purchase a 50 kilogramme bag of maize at K60.
Meanwhile, Masaiti farmers say they will never forgive the PF and President Edgar Lungu for abusing and neglecting them.
Zimba, in a statement issued by ZNFU media liaison officer Calvin Kaleyi, projected a fall in maize output in the country as farmers will stop maize cultivation following the low price being offered by FRA.
He said it was obvious that the new price would not benefit the farmer in any way.
Zimba explained that with a breakeven price for a bag of maize estimated at K75, the K60 market price offered by FRA left the farmer making a loss of K15 per 50kg bag.
In reality, the FRA is offering farmers K1.20 per kg, way below full cost recovery price. This really is a morale dampener for farmers, coming from a season where they experienced army worms, red locusts and flash floods, but withstood the odds,
Affected farmers had to replant, meaning more seed, more fertilisers, and more chemicals to spray farms against pestilences and hire labour. The cost of production has clearly been overlooked. Farmers have been on the bad receiving end of the value chain all the time as opposed to consumers. This development is disheartening to farmers that worked very hard to ensure the maize bumper harvest of 3.6 million metric tonnes was attained, even against the pestilences outbreaks and climate change vagaries. Is this the best FRA could offer? What is the rationale behind this pricing mechanism? The Union is alive to the mechanisms of demand and supply.
He said maize growers in the country were justified to feel abandoned by the government.
“As ZNFU, we have since classified FRA as briefcase buyers for the 2016/2017 marketing season as its decision is now going to inject more poverty in our farmers. In the past FRA could come to the aid of farmers when such times arose. But if the FRA does not want to buy maize from farmers, let them clearly state so than punishing the farmers with a low price,” Zimba said.
“It is sad that farmers have once again been offered a pittance for their hard work, and the ZNFU will not shy away to state that this is discouraging. If this is the way to make agriculture the mainstay of the economy, then surely farmers must be looking at it from the wrong side of the fence. The Union has been left with more questions than answers as to how such a price would be a motivating factor to even produce more during the 2017/2018 farming season.”
He predicted that FRA’s decision was going to force most farmers to leave maize growing and in the long run lead to a fall in the staple food’s output.
This season, in spite of bumper production in several other crops other than maize such as soya beans, conditions are pointing towards disaster for farmers, marketing-wise. We have had the worst market prices for soyabeans, which crushed from K5 to K1.50 per kg. The K60 for a 50kg bag of maize has just driven in the last nail to bury the farmer,
All this comes against a backdrop of droughts experienced two seasons one after the other, astronomical interest rates and an increase in a host of costs that farmers have no control over. Going into the 2017/2018 farming season, it will be difficult for farmers to gather courage to plant maize and soyabeans again, given the raw deal they have received for their sweat as the FRA is a market leader since it sets the parameters even for outlying areas. If not carefully handled, the coming season might give us the worst figures in maize production ever which could jeopardise the country’s food security. What FRA has sown on the maize price, its impact will be felt in 2019. The indicators of this price show that farmers that are not on FISP will go bankrupt. We should not forget what has happened to the cotton industry. What has happened to the cotton industry will surely happen to the maize sector. It it is self destruction.
And the farmers in Masaiti described the announced maize price by the FRA as a mockery.
In an interview, Joseph Fuloshi, a peasant farmer in Masaiti, said the lies of PF would backfire.
“Ala this government ba fwaya kwipaya abantu (wants to kill people). We suffered so much to produce our maize and they want us to sell them so cheaply! Ala kutumpa ba PF. Tuli chulile kuno ku Masaiti (PF is being silly; we have suffered here in Masaiti),” Fuloshi said.
“Nomba moneni (now look) they did not give us inputs here; no fertiliser and we suffered to have our produce. Ba army worms baisa, twachula, now they want to buy our maize so cheaply, this is foolishness, kutumpa kwa buteko (government’s silliness).”
Fuloshi said the government should have allowed the farmers to sell their maize to private buyers before announcing the K60 price.
He said the PF should stop exploiting citizens.
“The people of Masaiti are self-sustained and we feed ourselves but this exploitation from this government is not good. It will backfire. We will never trust the PF again. They should forget about any vote from the Lamba farmers,” Fuloshi said.
He said it does not make sense to sell maize at cheap prices to the FRA.
There is no sense in selling to FRA. They don’t even buy on cash. We will have to wait for the money even up to next year. These people do not consider us. They want us to die! Time will come, they will need the farmers,