CHOMA based human rights activist Bright Jalila says politicising the marketing of crops like maize is greatly affecting the agricultural sector. Jalila said it was cheap politics for President Edgar Lungu to turn around and direct the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to review the marketing price when he was the major problem to the country.
In an interview, Jalila said there was no difference between government and the FRA, because they are one.
“It’s cheap politics for President Edgar Lungu to turn around and direct the Food Reserve Agency to review the marketing price when he is the major problem to the country himself. He creates a problem himself then comes back through a back door and say review this price so that people think he has a good heart for farmers,” he said.
Jalila said the President’s statement did not deserve any credit because it was just mere politicking that had no bearing on the lives of people. He said politicians had impoverished farmers by continually dictating floor price for crops.
Jalila said if farming had to be a meaningful business that transformed people’s lives and the economy, then those involved in it must not lean on government which was controlled by politicians that have no heart for the poor.
Jalila said the system of over politicizing crops like maize was greatly affecting the agricultural sector in the country.
He said government through the FRA had become a monster that only held farmers to ransom. Jalila urged farmers come up with initiatives that could enable them stand on their own without depending on the political direction to favour them.
He said cooperatives that farmers were using to access inputs from government could be used as marketing platforms for their products than waiting upon government to completely finish them off.
Jalila said the PF had completely divorced itself from the path of poverty reduction through the promotion of agriculture owing to its stance to politicise the marketing price of crops. He said soon Zambia would plunge into untold economic crisis if President Lungu continued to play politics especially on maize marketing because farmers might stop producing for business purposes.
Jalila said once farmers considered maize a non-cash crop, that had potential to create food shortages in the country.
And Chief Cooma reminded FRA that its very survival depended on the same farmers the agency was killing through low prices. He said the FRA’s realignment to politics of shifting goal posts every now and then, following politicians in determining marketing price for cash crops had potential to destroy farming in the country.
Cooma proposed K85 per 50kg bag of maize as ideal if poverty was to be addressed in rural areas.
He welcomed President Edgar Lungu’s directive to the FRA to review its earlier announced floor price for maize pegged at K65 per 50kg bag, Cooma said the directive was welcome because it was not good for government to be the one putting the last nail on its people’s lives.
“If poverty levels continue being allowed to increase through failure to protect the available simple means of people making money such as agriculture, then Zambia will be as good as a dead nation. Poor people rely on agriculture and why should government destroy the market? What type of a country is Zambia going to be?” Cooma asked.
He said the cost of living for small-scale farmers was hard and would only change if measures were put in place to safeguard the market of their produce.
The chief said small-scale farmers were at the receiving end because they had no connections for market outside country as briefcase buyers did.
He urged FRA not to involve itself in politics because it would destroy the agricultural sector.
“The other major problem is that FRA here [Southern Province] only buys white maize and farmers who plant other crops like beans have nowhere to sell their products. It is our plea that FRA should start buying other crops as well,” said Cooma.