YOTAM Mtayachalo says the 2018 maize floor price set by the Food Reserve Agency will dampen the morale of the farming community in the country.
And Mtayachalo has suggested that government, through FRA, should help small scale farmers sell maize to the international market.
Last week FRA pegged the maize floor price at K65 but this was met with mixed feelings prompting President Edgar Lungu to order a review of the price, describing the current one as not a very fair price.
But Mtayachalo, who is FDD national chairperson for labour, stated that the 2018 maize floor price was a mockery.
“The floor price of maize announced by the government through FRA is a mockery to our hard working farmers as the K65 per 50kg bag of maize price offered to farmers for the 2018 marketing season is not commensurate with the prevailing high cost of production in light of high cost of fertilisers, seeds and other auxiliary farming inputs. Further, the general cost of doing business in the country has been escalating at a very alarming rate and as such the agriculture sector has not equally been spared. Therefore, the price of maize will dampen the morale among the farming community and may further discourage them from growing the staple food because government has continued to offer them a slavery floor price which is mostly driven by political motives,” he stated.
Mtayachalo accused successive governments of having manipulated the maize floor price for political reasons.
“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to tell that all successive governments have manipulated the price of maize for political reasons by deliberately offering maize farmers poor prices for their commodity for the sole purpose of providing cheaper mealie-meal on the market, notably for the urban communities at the expense of poor farmers, hence small scale farmers have failed to graduate into higher income brackets since independence because of lack of adequate working capital and mechanisation, job creation and poverty eradication remains a pipe dream,” he stated. “It must also be realised that farmers have not equally been spared from the high cost of living in the country, and as such the government which claims to be pro-poor should have taken into account such factors before announcing the floor price of maize in order to motivate the farmers to grow more food for local consumption and export.”
Mtayachalo stated that the floor price might hinder farmers from diversifying.
“Furthermore, the continued poor price of maize offered to farmers may hinder the country from achieving the much preached diversification agenda from mining to agriculture if the government continues to pay lip service to the growth of the agriculture sector. Moreover, about 40 per cent of Zambians are actively engaged in agricultural economic activities. It is therefore important that the government must design deliberate policies in order to trigger growth in the sector if we have to significantly reduce or eliminate poverty which continues to ravage our vulnerable population, especially in rural areas,” he stated.
Mtayachalo also appealed to government to help farmers sell their maize on the international market.
He appealed to the government to consider coming up with a deliberate policy which would see the FRA entering into an agreement with small and medium scale maize farmers for the agency to sell the commodity on their behalf on the lucrative international market, while a certain quantity could be bought at the local price for strategic food reserves.
“I strongly believe that such a move would result into farmers getting real value for their money and stop depending on subsidised farming inputs as they will have the financial capacity to buy their own instead of perpetually depending on the farmer input support programme, which is proving to be a bottomless pit,” stated Mtayachalo.