The Food Reserve Agency (FRA) says it won’t manage to purchase the targeted 500,000 metric tonnes of maize this crop marketing season, but insists that the country will be food secure because it already has 300,000 tonnes of the commodity in stock.

And the FRA has so far closed down 60 satellite depots, which were inactive across the country due to the unavailability of maize.

In an interview with News Diggers! in Lusaka, FRA board chairperson Joe Simachela said the agency has so far purchased only 170,000 metric tonnes of maize and would not reach its usual 500,000 metric tonnes target as maize was inaccessible.

“Reaching the target, I will not lie to you, I don’t think so. The target, we will remain sceptical, but what I can assure you is that we will be food secure. That’s because we have about 300,000 metric tonnes already in stock. So, we are food secure for the whole of next year. That’s the reason why you have always noticed that we make these reserves. Usually, we would buy more for storage that’s why you will also notice that the President [Edgar Lungu] had to ban the export of maize. So, we are food secure and there is no need for the citizens to panic because we have enough in stock. But in terms of meeting out target, that one we do not anticipate,” Simachela said.

“And now, if you have noticed because of the export ban, most of the prices of maize have gone down. Remember, we had a lot of private sector participation this month and that’s what had caused the prices of maize to go higher, but after the release of funds from the Ministry of Finance, my information is that there has been an increase in the purchases also. But we cannot reach the 500,000 metric tonnes target, we do not anticipate that. But I can assure the nation, through the media that, we are food secure. If we had started at zero then there was going to be reason for concern, but we started with 300,000 metric tonnes. With that, I can tell you that, we will have enough to last the whole lot of next year.”

And Simachela said the agency has so far closed down 60 satellite depots, which were inactive across the country due to the unavailability of maize.

“Kindly note the review of satellite depot performance is being done monthly, the first being on 8th September 2018, when 81 inactive depots were earmarked for closure and 21 were requested to be open, hence from the total 796 opened on 8th August 2018, 60 were effectively closed remaining with 736 depots. The second review is due this week (second month) and we await regional submissions by Thursday to close off depots that are inactive. Main attributes are no more maize grain inflows at those particular satellite depots,” said Simachela.