Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) president Jervis Zimba says the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) is swindling farmers by insisting on buying maize at k60 because the price is below the cost of production.

In a statement today, Zimba advised farmers to store their maize safely and not sell it to government until a better price was agreed upon adding that those who had already sold theirs, did so at their own risk.

“The Food Reserve Agency (FRA) Executive Director’s insistency on maintaining the K60 maize market price clearly demonstrates how us as farmers are being swindled in the worst conceivable way, by a Government institution. The FRA is pegging the price of maize at below the cost of production when it is supposed to balance the prices, both for mealie meal and maize production.
We will borrow a saying, which states that; ‘this is totally exploitation of man by man’. We are warning farmers who have supplied maize to FRA that they have done so at owner’s risk, as the Agency this year has been classified as a briefcase buyer,” Zimba stated.

“FRA is not actually buying maize, but swindling farmers. All those farmers that have supplied maize to FRA are actually being swindled as the Agency is not even paying cash for the maize. We are aware that some farmers will be deceived with few early payments, but farmers will only get paid after four or five months. Therefore, FRA must not say they have started buying maize from farmers when in actual sense they have started swindling farmers by paying them below production cost. Since when did FRA start buying maize for making a profit at the expense of the primary producer? Why did FRA not allow market forces to be at play when mealie meal prices were high? We feel the pain as farmers outside the FISP bracket who grew the 2.2 million metric tonnes of maize using own cash.”

Zimba encouraged farmers to find safer ways of storing their maize and only sell it later this year or sometime earlier next year instead of selling it to the FRA at a deflated price.

“We as a union feel the pain of the people who borrowed money to finance the production of this
maize. We feel the pain for those farmers who will fail to pay for the tractors and farm equipment loans. We also feel the pain for farmers who got fertilizers on credit from agro dealer companies, who will be unable to pay back those loans. We are appealing to the banks to exercise patience during this trying moment. We are also appealing to farmers to find the best possible ways of storing this maize and not sell a single grain to FRA and only start marketing our maize from November 2017 through to July 2018, when we project maize prices to become better,” he stated.

“Farmers have responded positively to the Head of State’s call that he wants to run an agro-based
economy. Therefore, farmers have been patriotic and responded to the call to feed the nation, but
should not be taken for granted. History is about to repeat itself. Current developments are reminiscent of the 1990s when farmers stopped growing maize. We do hear that the Minister of Agriculture was out of the country at the time the letter was written, but again has traveled. We are now waiting for a response from the Acting Minister as our letter still stands and government has the responsibility to hear the farmers’ cry.”

Zimba stated that the Union would have no other option but to declassify the grain business if government did not revisit its selling price.

“If nothing comes out of this maize market mess, we will have no choice but to declassify maize as a risky business, since we believe farming is a business. Therefore, the ball is in the court of the Agriculture Minister. We appeal to the Acting Minister to meet us. Both FRA and the Permanent Secretary Mr. Julius Shawa should have a humane face over this issue. The public should know that even at K85 per 50 kg bag paid to the farmer last year, this translates into a farmer living on K300 per month. So, at K60 for a 50kg bag, the farmer will be living in abject poverty.”

Meanwhile, Zimba appealed to remain calm as the Union negotiated for a better price for them.

“We are disappointed with Permanent Secretary Mr. Shawa over his reaction in supporting the FRA pricing. We hope he was misquoted, otherwise we would begin to think he is a foot amiss in the Ministry. The Union is ready to sit down and meet anyone in Government to resolve these agriculture issues. As for farmers, I hear some of you have already started feeding maize to your animals. I appeal to you to hold on until we get a better price for our maize. This is a time when we need to be more united than ever,” stated Zimba.