The Food Reserve Agency’s (FRA) revised maize purchase price of K70 per 50Kg bag for this year’s crop marketing season equates to nothing for farmers, says development expert Dr Frank Kayula.

And the Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) has expressed dismay at the FRA’s incremental maize purchase price, saying it is still a low price.

Last Friday, the FRA revised upwards its maize purchase price of K65 per 50Kg bag for the 2018 crop marketing season to K70, representing an increment of only K5.

According to a press release FRA board chairperson Joe Hantebe Simachela announced that the agency had increased the maize purchase price from the original offering price of K65 to K70 per 50Kg bag.

This was in response to several stakeholders, including President Edgar Lungu, who had observed that their previous purchase price of K65 was “unfair to farmers.”

Commenting on the latest upward adjustment, Dr Kayula, who is the National Union for Small-Scale Farmers of Zambia (NUSFAZ) director-general, said that the FRA’s new price was as good as offering “nothing” to farmers whose cost of production to produce a 50Kg bag of white maize had skyrocketed to well over K100.

“If you compare the breakeven price at which the farmers recoup their cost, which is at K129 [per 50Kg bag], with the price that was offered at K65, and the upward adjustment to K70, it’s nothing, it is very small; it means nothing. It is as good as not even increasing because farmers are still making almost 50 per cent loss,” Dr Kayula told News Diggers! in an interview.

“And these are farmers whom we should rely on to move the agricultural sector. Our opinion was that, yes, they can make a loss, but cover them a bit by giving them minimum K80 per 50Kg [bag].”

He insisted that the FRA’s new maize price would not “liberate” the farmer.

“The FRA is not an economic institution per se; it is a social institution. The price cannot liberate these small-scale farmers. That goes also for the programme that we have for them – the FISP [Farmer Input Support Programme] – cannot liberate the small-scale farmers in its current structure so our call is that, it should have been a better price than what they have given,” Dr Kayula added.

He explained that farmers’ costs, which averaged K129 per 50Kg bag of maize, needed to be cushioned with a positive price.

“That’s what it costs actually; K129 is what it costs to produce one 50Kg bag. So, if you have to sell one 50Kg bag, really, you have to sell it above K129. We are also cognizant of the fact that, increasing the [maize] price is not the only solution for the farmer but, the other solution is improving productivity,” he observed.

“That’s why we settled to say, ‘well, these losses are there because farmers are still trying to improve productivity’; can this social sector of government help them not to have over 50 per cent losses, this is our rational.”

And ZNFU media liaison and public relations officer Calvin Kaleyi said in a separate interview that the adjusted price was still too low.

“Truth be told, it’s not a price that is really going to excite the farmers because, actually, they are not even making any profits. Really, it’s still a low price,” said Kaleyi.