THE Food Reserve Agency says there is a risk of food insecurity owing to the dropping harvest and low prices offered to farmers by the agency and local industries.
And the FRA has announced that it will purchase a 50 kilogramme bag of maize at K65, a mere K5 increase from last season’s floor price. The agency has also indicated that it will purchase a 50 kg bag of Soya Beans at K130 and a 40kg bag of Paddy Rice at K70.
Announcing its crop prices for this marketing season at a media briefing held in Lusaka yesterday, FRA executive director Chola Kafwabulula said the year was going to be a tough one for his agency because of the factors at play.
“What is obtaining in the region has a critical impact on our food security. And yes there is a drop in our production this year and from the reports we are getting from some neighbouring countries are that [they] offering a slightly better price than FRA and some of the industries…. So for that reason, we are going to have a competitive year. It will not be a very easy year for us because there is a drop in production,” he said.
Kafwabulula said the agency had exported 100,000 metric tonnes of maize last season and raised $13 million, which has since been surrendered to the treasury.
“Currently we are hording about 300,000 metric tones. Basically, to attain food security, we only need to buy about 200,000 metric tones, then we know that we are safe and secure for this year. But we will still go ahead and try to reach our target of 500,000 metric tones,” Kafwabulula said.
“We were exporting some maize in the last half of last year. We were actually authorised to export 100,000 metric tonnes of maize and that went as far as East Africa, the Great Lakes region, Zimbabwe and Botswana. So last year we exported something but now we are in a new season. Through that export, we managed to raise $13 million which was remitted to the treasury.”
At the same briefing, FRA board chairman Joe Simachela said the agency would procure about 500,000 metric tonnes of grain as National Strategic Reserve in line with government policy guidelines. He also said FRA would not sell grain to millers as they were expecting the private sector to fill in the gap on the left out excess stocks on the market.
Simachela said FRA determined prices for 2018 market through a process of crop price scenario analysis and survey of the existing farm gates with its key stakeholders.
“The government policy guidelines remain sustained to direct the flow of the FRA operations during the 2018 season going forward and include the following; FRA will be restricted to purchase 500,000 Metric Tonnes of grain as National Strategic Food Reserve in outlying areas, FRA will no longer sell grain to millers as millers are expected to buy their own stocks, FRA will enhance community sales and sell to vulnerable communities and programmes such as Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit, Ministry of Education, Home Grown school feeding programmes, Correctional Facilities, hospices , schools and hospitals. FRA will sell the grain, if any, at the cost reflective prices in order to avoid subsidies and operate within budgetary allocations. The 2017/2018 Crop Forecast Survey results indicate maize production of 2.394 million MT, 43,063 MT of Paddy rice and 302,720 MT of Soya beans,” Simachela said.
He said that the price FRA was willing to buy the crop should not be implied as the floor price for the marketing season.
Simachela further said FRA expects farmers to adhere to general practice of ensuring that they clean the maize at frame stands to avoid congestion.
“The survey of the prevailing farm gates and open market prices indicative crop gross margin budget taking care of input costs in relation to commercial pricing and the subsidy beneficiaries of the government Farmer Input support Programme. Consultations of the key market stakeholders and players in the crop marketing chain under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture, these key stakeholders included, the Grain Traders Association of Zambia (GTAZ), Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ), Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU), Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI), Zambia Agriculture Commodity Exchange (ZAMACE) to mention a few but as key players,” Simachela said.
He added that farmers would be paid within 14 days after they deliver their maize to the agency.
“The farmers will be paid on time, what I mean is they will be paid two weeks from the time that they have supplied. So you can see that the goodwill is there,” said Simachela.