The Food Reserve Agency’s (FRA) maize purchase price of K65 per 50Kg bag for this year’s crop marketing season is disappointing, says National Union for Small-Scale Farmers of Zambia (NUSFAZ) director-general Dr Frank Kayula.

And Dr Kayula has advised small-scale farmers nationwide to find alternative buyers for their maize who are able to pay them quickly as opposed to waiting on the FRA to release monies after their crop has been delivered.

Meanwhile, Dr Kayula says small-scale farmers were not consulted in the so-called “consultative process” as purported by the FRA ahead of announcing this year’s crop price.

Last Friday, the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) announced its maize purchase price of K65 per 50Kg bag for the 2018 crop marketing season, an increment of only K5 from last year.

The agency will commence purchase of white maize in this year’s crop marketing season on or around August 1, once the moisture content levels drop to the acceptable threshold of 12.5 per cent, according to board chairperson Joe Hantebe Simachela.

In explaining the FRA’s decision to hike the price maize incrementally by only K5, Simachela stressed that the agency was “cognizant” of the budgetary implications involved in deciding on a price, adding that the agency consulted widely before arriving at K65.

But reacting to the development, Dr Kayula said the price was disappointing for small-scale farmers who have worked hard to produce this year’s crop.

“I know there’s quite a lot of maize out there, and FRA will probably get what they want, but that’s really a disappointing price because FRA is not an economic institution; FRA’s a social institution to ensure it takes care of food security in this country,” Dr Kayula told News Diggers! in an interview.

“Our hope would have been that, they should also have been looking at: ‘hey, we are doing this social thing; how can we help small-scale farmers to boost up their income so that they become a little more independent next time’, and that’s not the case.”

He also predicted that farmers may shun selling their crop to the FRA once they enter the market next week in favour of private buyers.

“I anticipate that, because FRA has come in and offering almost the same price; the farmers are interested in the price because they have been waiting for this money to come, they ploughed their money into the production cycle and this time around, they are expecting to get their money,” Dr Kayula added.

“If FRA was buying on cash basis, they [farmers] could’ve rushed there, but I know that, FRA will just be collecting maize in bits, but they are likely to achieve their [strategic reserves] target of 500,000 metric tonnes because the farmer out there in the rural areas has no other option other than FRA.”

And Dr Kayula has advised small-scale farmers nationwide to find alternative buyers for their maize who are able to pay them quickly as opposed to waiting on the FRA.

“It’s a lesson to us as small-scale farmers that it is making us to find alternatives in terms of market. What is the best alternative because whenever we wait for this, ultimately, we have problems. And then, we also look at ‘why should we always be waiting for a situation where people will not consider you’?” he wondered.

“But also, the third alternative is that, we should start processing this crop at their own farm, and produce only what is enough for household food security, while the national food security is taken care of by the Prisons Service, Zambia National Service and the like, including commercial farmers, because we only need about 500,000 hectares to get what we need for food security at national level. But I hope this will release the farmer to be able to do enterprises that will give them better monies.”

Meanwhile, when asked whether the FRA’s so-called “consultative process” ahead of announcing this year’s crop price included small-scale farmers, Dr Kayula said they were overlooked.

“Well, I suppose that they don’t consider us as stakeholders; they may be right in their own way, and they know which stakeholders they are calling ‘stakeholders’; probably, we are not part of that list because we were not consulted,” responded Dr Kayula.