The Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) International says government should redirect its resources to facilitating farmers’ access to private sector markets in light of the low FRA maize purchase price.
Under intense pressure, the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) revised its maize purchase price for the this year’s crop marketing season to K70 per 50Kg bag from K65 announced just one week prior.
In a statement, CUTS centre coordinator Chenai Mukumba said government should redirect its resources to facilitating farmers’ access to private sector markets in light of the low FRA maize purchase price.
She noted that government should take a more long-term approach to its decision-making by ensuring that policy consistency was aimed at working to link farmers to lucrative markets.
“While the FRA indicated that the decision to review the price of maize was because it had received mixed reactions from various stakeholders, which necessitated further consultations, the decision raises concern regarding policy inconsistency in the agricultural sector. Policy inconsistency has remained one of the key concerns that has limited private sector participation in the agriculture sector for a number of years. And as stated previously, CUTS is of the view that rather than change the FRA price, the government should rather have redirected its resources to facilitating farmer access to private sector markets in light of the low FRA price,” Mukumba stated.
“Even now, there are areas where the private sector is able to offer higher prices than the K70/bag that the FRA is offering. In some areas, farmers are able to sell their maize at up to K80 per 50kg bag. It would, therefore, have been in the best interest of farmers to have had the government provided the necessary resources to access these markets. We, therefore, remain of the view that the government should redouble its efforts to ensure that farmers have access to private sector markets so that they are able to sell their maize at the prices that the private sector is offering at the moment.”
Mukumba urged government to make use of the Zambian Commodities Exchange (ZAMACE) in order to promote a private-sector led agricultural sector, just as espoused by the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP).
“The Zambian Commodities Exchange (ZAMACE) is one avenue to access private sector prices that has remained underutilized. ZAMACE provides a transparent trading platform for all actors in the agricultural sector. Farmers particularly would be able to benefit from its operations as it provides a platform for them to store their maize in certified warehouses so that they are able to sell it at a later date at a competitive price. Once a farmer has stored their maize in a ZAMACE certified warehouse, they receive a receipt that they can either sell, or use as collateral to obtain a bank loan. ZAMACE also works in the best interest of the other agricultural sector players. Millers are able to purchase maize through a transparent and competitive bidding process; and, ultimately, consumers benefit because they will be able to buy mealie meal produced from maize that has been bought at the most competitive price,” stated Mukumba.
“In order to promote the private-sector, as espoused by the Seventh National Development Plan, it is imperative that policy consistency remain a key feature of the sector. This year, we have seen policy changes in both the input and marketing side of the agricultural sector with changes undertaken in the implementation of the FISP programme – and now most recently, with the FRA price. Such changes serve as a deterrent for the private sector to invest in agriculture, which is contrary to our aspirations as a country. We, therefore, urge the government to take a more long-term approach to their decision-making by ensuring policy consistency and working to link farmers, particularly small-scale farmers, to markets.”