The Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) says it is saddened with the maize price of K60 per 50kg bag announced by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) because farmers will make huge losses.

In a statement, ZNFU president Jarvis Zimba said the market price was a morale dampener for farmers.

“It is obvious that this price will not benefit the farmer in any way. With a breakeven price for a 50kg bag of maize estimated at K75, the K60 FRA market price leaves a farmer making a loss of K15 per 50kg bag. In reality, the FRA is offering farmers K1.20 per kg, way below full cost recovery price. This, really, is a morale dampener for farmers, coming from a season where they experienced Fall Army Worms (FAW), red locusts and flush floods, but withstood the odds,” Zimba stated.

“Affected farmers had to replant, meaning more seed, more fertilisers, and more chemicals to spray farms against pestilences and hire labour. The cost of production has clearly been overlooked. Farmers have been on the bad receiving end of the value chain all the time as opposed to consumers. This development is disheartening to farmers that worked very hard to ensure the maize bumper harvest of 3.6 million metric tonnes was attained, even against the pestilences outbreaks and climate change vagaries.”

He wondered if that was the best FRA could offer.

“Is this the best FRA could offer? What is the rationale behind this pricing mechanism? The Union is alive to the mechanisms of demand and supply. As ZNFU, we have since classified FRA as briefcase buyers for the 2016/2017 Marketing season as its decision is now going to inject more poverty in our farmers. In the past FRA could come to the aid of farmers when such times arose. But if the FRA does not want to buy maize from farmers, let them clearly state so than punishing the farmers with a lowly price. It is sad that farmers have once again been offered a pittance for their hard work, and the ZNFU will not shy away to state that this is discouraging. If this is the way to make agriculture the mainstay of the economy, then surely farmers must be looking at it from the wrong side of the fence,” Zimba said.

“The Union has been left with more questions than answers as to how such a price would be a motivating factor to even produce more during the 2017/2018 farming season. If anything, the message is don’t go out there and grow maize as farmers. This season, in spite of bumper production in several other crops other than maize such as soya beans, conditions are pointing towards disaster for farmers, marketing-wise. We have had the worst market prices for soyabeans, which crushed from K5 to K1.50 per kg. The K60 for a 50kg bag of maize has just driven in the last nail to bury the farmer. All this comes against a backdrop of droughts experienced two seasons one after the other, astronomical interest rates and an increase in a host of costs that farmers have no control over.”

ZNFU president Jarvis Zimba

He observed that it would be difficult for farmers to plant maize and soya beans again in future.

“Going into the 2017/2018 farming season, it will be difficult for farmers to gather courage to plant maize and soyabeans again, given the raw deal they have received for their sweat as the FRA is a market leader since it sets the parameters even for outlying areas. If not carefully handled, the coming season might give us the worst figures in maize production ever which could jeopardise the country’s food security. What FRA has sown on the maize price, its impact will be felt in 2019. The indicators of this price show that farmers that are not on FISP will go bankrupt,” stated Zimba.

“We should not forget what has happened to the cotton industry. What has happened to the cotton industry will surely happen to the maize sector. It it is self destruction. We again, wish to implore government to consider engaging farmers every time they plan to make an important decision that impacts their businesses and lives.”