The Food Reserve Agency (FRA) have announced its maize purchase price of K110 per 50Kg bag for the 2019 crop marketing season, an increase by K40 from last season.

But the Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) have dismissed the Agency’s maize purchase price as disappointing and falling short of what farmers were expecting.

Speaking during a press briefing in Lusaka, Friday, FRA board chairperson Joe Simachela said the Agency would immediately commence purchasing a 50Kg bag of white maize at an improved price of K110 during the 2019 crop marketing season, representing a huge increase of K40, compared to last season’s maize price of K70.

This translates as K2,200 per metric tonne or K2.20 per kilogramme.

He explained that the improved price took into account the unique nature of Zambia’s crop marketing position in that the Agency sought to quickly replenish its strategic grain reserves.

“I wish to state that in arriving at determined prices for 2019, FRA acknowledges that this year is unique in nature and notes the urgent need for FRA to replenish the strategic grain reserves from a volatile grain market obtaining locally and in the region,” Simachela told journalists at the FRA’s headquarters.

He said that an amount of K74.4 million was set aside to pay farmers during the current crop marketing season, but that monies would only be paid upon meeting certain requirements.

“As a clear sign of commitment and government’s desire to promote and develop agriculture, an initial amount of K74.4 million for farmer payment on first-come, first-served basis, has been made available, and FRA has disbursed to the various districts farmer-paying financial institutions in readiness for payment to farmers who deliver the crop to our depots upon meeting the necessary documentation and scrutiny,” Simachela announced.

On the FRA’s crop purchasing performance last year, he revealed that the Agency failed to meet its 500,000 tonnes maize reserves purchasing target, among other crops, on account of the country’s poor yields.
“The Agency purchased 174,685 metric tonnes of white maize against the target of 500,000 metric tonnes representing 34.9 per cent. The Agency also purchased 16.55 metric tonnes of soya beans representing 0.7 per cent of the target of 10,000 metric tonnes and 22.64 metric tonnes of Paddy Rice representing 1.0 per cent of the target of 2,100 metric tonnes. The low purchases were attributed to low national production recorded in the year resulting from prolonged drought and the competitive prices, coupled with attractive payment terms offered by the private sector,” he disclosed.

Simachela, however, assured that Zambia was still food secure despite the country excepting to produce even lower maize yields this year.

“The carry-over stocks as of 28th June, 2019, stands at gross physical stocks of 244,506.44 metric tonnes of non-GMO white maize; 240 metric tonnes of soya beans and 19.64 metric tonnes of Paddy Rice, which are sufficient stocks to safeguard the food security of the country, especially for relief and emergency purposes before the purchase can commence. I, therefore, wish to assure the nation that the country is food secure and will continue to be for the foreseeable future,” Simachela said.

He added that the Agency was equally purchasing soya beans and Paddy Rice this season for K150 per 50Kg bag and K70 per 40Kg bag respectively.

But ZNFU media and public relations manager Calvin Kaleyi expressed disappointment at the FRA’s new maize purchase price, saying it fell short of what farmers had been expecting.

“ZNFU was invited to a consultative meeting with the Ministry of Agriculture and the announced price is nowhere near the range recommended by the stakeholders of K130 to K140 per 50Kg bag of white maize based on prevailing market price indications,” Kaleyi said in a statement issued in Lusaka, Friday.

“Regrettably, the FRA price of K110 per 50Kg bag is far below the current maize prices being offered in the main producing areas, such as Central and Eastern provinces.”

He argued that the cost of production had drastically increased, hence the need to hike the maize purchase price to a comparative margin.

“The Union recognizes that the cost of production has increased and continues to escalate, while the asset base of farmers has been wiped out by the adverse weather pattern, which has been prevailing season after season since 2015 and the hostile macroeconomic environment. It is not an exaggeration to state that farming profitably, today, has remained unattainable by many farmers,” lamented Kaleyi.