THE cost of producing maize is very high compared to how much it is sold at, says Zambia National Farmers Union president Jervis Zimba.
He says farmers also want to make money and live decent lives like people in urban areas.
Speaking when he attended the Maize Industry Stakeholders meeting on increasing production from 2020 and beyond, Zimba said farmers had been subsidizing urban people.
“The cost of production is very high. The prices of inputs against what we sell our crops… we have been subsidizing the urban people for a very long time. This time around we farmers are saying, give us space also, naise tipangeko ndalama pangono [for us to make some money]. It’s very important, we also want to drive nice cars like you people in town, we want to live conducive lives like you people in town,” he said.
“So the people who are always talking about high mealie-meal prices, like the MAZ [Millers Association of Zambia] president, he likes talking about the mealie-meal prices. I want my colleague this year to rent a farm and see how difficult it is to grow the maize and how you are going to sell it.”
Zimba said until “we get the right price, all these things we are talking about will fail, but let us understand that we don’t have control over the price on the inputs so when the price goes up, bear with the farmers, we also want to enjoy life just like you.”
He said there was need to open the market for maize to allow growth in the sector.
“You cannot grow the agriculture sector based on local consumption alone. This partnership of the government and the private sector where we are seeing the two trying to secure market for our maize in DRC, I think this is … we are going to see a turnaround of the agricultural sector,” Zimba said.
He said Zambia needs to position itself and become the food basket of the region.
“Across the Kafue River, that country will never be the same, they will be looking for food from us, in the northern, Kenya, DRC will be looking for food from us so let us take advantage of the situation. The future of food production is in the sub-Sahara Africa and these are Europeans saying this,” Zimba said. “And when you look at Sub-Sahara, who are they [referring to]? It’s Zambia. So we are realigning ourselves to see how we can occupy this [spot] in the world.”
Zimba however bemoaned the poor funding to the sector.
“The most important challenge that we are facing right now is the issue of financing to the agriculture sector by the banking sector. We have seen a total reduction of financing to our sector. We have seen lots of farms going under liquidation,” said Zimba.
“The financial sector must walk with us, things are changing. We must be singing the same song on how we can drive the agricultural sector.”
Agriculture minister Michael Katambo, who opened the meeting, called on private players in the sector not to leave the responsibility of developing a joint plan to the government alone.
On the DRC request for maize, Katambo said: “That is the essence of this meeting. After the meeting we will be updated on the requirements of the MoU. Until we come to terms and agree that is when we are going to engage the government and the private sector and meet the supply against demand.”
Katambo said the Food Reserve Agency was targeting to buy three million tonnes of maize but that so far had bought only 90,000 tonnes.
He insisted that the country is food secure.