The Zambia Council for Social Development says it is unfortunate that the Food Reserve Agency has not yet paid all farmers despite buying their maize at a low price.
In an interview, ZCSD executive director Lewis Mwape said it was regrettable that the PF were neglecting farmers.
“It is regrettable to see that as a country, we are not paying so much attention to our farming communities. We know that agriculture sustains more than 79 percent of our people and if we invest so much in agriculture we are likely to reduce poverty as a country and also bridge the widening inequalities in this country. First of all FRA committed to buy about 500,000 metric tonnes and for us this was a strategy to ensure that they plan within the resources which were available and ensure that they buy and give the farmers they collected the maize from what they deserved. Their price [of maize] is very low and when we delay to pay them as a country, we are affecting the farmers heavily. We are talking about farmers whose profit margin has been reduced very highly meaning that they are not making any profit out of it. And when we delay further it means that we are making them to live by borrowing in terms of other services so this situation must be arrested by the government especially FRA,” Mwape said.
He noted that government had misplaced priorities.
“Like I usually say, ‘insoni ebuntu’, if you begin to neglect the human aspect in you as a government, a mother of all citizens, you neglect to think about the poor, you prioritize issues that may not even affect the majority for example, the procurement of 42 fire tracks at $42 million could have helped to settle down some of these costs that we are struggling to do. As the country it the question of priority. We prioritize issues that affect the politicians, that affect the little few and when the majority few are affected, no one seems to be there,” he said.
And Mwape charged that President Edgar Lungu’s announcement to adjust maize prices was just a strategy to win the recently held by-elections.
“During the by-elections campaigns, the 14 by-elections that we had, we saw the President coming up and talking about considering revising the cost of a 50kg bag of maize so that the farmers can gain out of it. Can you imagine that that was just for the purpose of campaigning and winning elections? Elections are over and now no one is even reminding the President that ‘chief you told us that you are going to revise the maize prices’. And even if we revise [maize prices] are we going to pay the farmers that we have bought the maize from at the new price?’ So those are some of the questions that we need to ask. But tentatively, we want to demand that money must be found to pay the farmers because they need to pay school fees and university fees. There are a lot of things that the farmers need to do,” said Mwape.