The Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) International says small-scale farmers who grew their grain at a high cost last season will be negatively affected by the reduction in the selling price of mealie-meal.

And CUTS has encouraged the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to consider purchasing maize from farmers that are most in need citing that previous studies have shown that only a few poor households are beneficiaries of FRA.

In a statement, CUTS International Zambia Centre Coordinator Chenai Mukumba acknowledged the drop in mealie-meal prices resulting from high productivity of maize but regretted that the development would disadvantage farmers who grew their grain at a high cost last season.

“CUTS would like to acknowledge the positive outlook of the agricultural sector with regards to the drop in mealie-meal prices as result of high productivity of maize. A few months ago, a 25kg bag of breakfast mealie-meal was fetching between K96 and K106, and in some cases as high as K120. But a check in retail outlets has established that the prices of mealie-meal have fallen significantly,” Mukumba stated.

“The drop in prices is as a result of the bumper harvest as well as the market forces of demand and
supply as most millers are now buying maize grain from farmers at lower prices. However, in as much as the price reduction will benefit consumers, small-scale farmers who grew the grain at a high cost when compared to the price they are selling to millers will be affected.”

And Mukumba commended FRA for reducing the amount of maize to purchase this year. However, she encouraged the agency to consider purchasing maize from poor farmers adding that previous studies had shown that only a few poor households were beneficiaries of FRA.

“CUTS would therefore like to note that the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) indicated that they would buy a limited amount of maize this year. Firstly, as CUTS we would like to commend them for their decision despite the bumper harvest. We encourage the FRA not to buy more than they already indicated. Minister of Agriculture, Honourable Dora Siliya said that the agency has in the past operated and purchased crop from at least 1,223 satellite depots.” she stated

“However, FRA intends to operate 760 satellite depots across the country. This will imply a drop of 463 depots or 33 per cent of the depots. This is in line with the policy pronouncement of limiting the strategic food reserve purchase to 500,000 metric tonnes. As such, we urge the FRA to the buy maize that they have set out to purchase from the farmers that are most in need. It is more important this year that the FRA redouble their efforts to purchase from low income farmers as previous studies have shown that only a few poor households are beneficiaries of FRA.”

Meanwhile, Mukumba noted that the implementation of incentives such as the Social Cash Transfer (SCT) by the government were also important to cushion poor farmers.

“Statistics show that the agency mostly purchases from non-poor households. According to a study done by the World Bank Group on ‘Reaping Richer Returns from Public expenditures in Agriculture’, statistics show that non-poor households sold fifty-three out of 92 50kg bags of maize to the FRA while extremely poor households sold only seven out of 23 bags.”

“It is also important to note that given the low maize prices the government may need to consider another way to cushion poor farmers such as through the implementation of the Social Cash Transfer (SCT),” stated Mukumba