UPND chairman for agriculture, food and water development Levy Ngoma has challenged government to offset maize on the market in order to curb the skyrocketing maize prices.

And Ngoma has urged government to be honest about Zambia’s real maize position, saying the country has insufficient maize stocks.

Speaking during a media briefing, Saturday, Ngoma challenged government to make use of the solar-powered milling plants to curb the escalating mealie meal prices, which were expected to continue rising if nothing was done to help reduce prices.

“Offload the excess maize, which they claimed we had in the food reserves, possibly at subsidized prices, and flood the market and use the highly-publicized solar-powered milling plants in especially rural areas in order to reduce the price of the commodity, which is likely to reach astronomical prices before year-end unless measures are put in place. Let them immediately start distributing fertilizer and other inputs to the farmers so that those that can manage to irrigate can do so and direct resources to water harvesting mechanisms, such as dams, canals, boreholes etc. so that crop production can be an all-year round activities, than waiting for rains,” Ngoma urged.

“It’s surprising to say that there is adequate maize in the maize reserves to go even for three seasons; I think your answer is as good as mine. Where is it? You go to satellite depots where they are distributing this relief maize or where (they’re) selling this maize to the farmers, they are only rationing to one 50Kg bag of maize per household! And for you to get that bag of maize, the bureaucracy involved is unimaginable! There is no maize, there is inadequate maize wherever the government is stocking it! If there was sufficient maize, what we are seeing today would not have been the case.”

And Ngoma urged government to swallow their pride and declare a humanitarian crisis to help assist the poor who were feeling the impact of the growing hunger crisis.

“So, in the immediate, what we are calling upon the PF is for them to stop being arrogant! To stop being pretentious and to declare this situation a disaster the way it’s supposed to be. Across the Zambezi, in Zimbabwe, the government has done so and we have seen aid beginning to trickle into Zimbabwe. Pride will not take us anywhere. In the eastern part of the country we say ‘samva za anzake, anamva nkwanga ili mu muthu’ (one, who doesn’t take advice, only listens when the axe has already hit the head) we don’t want President Lungu and the PF to be faced with such a scenario. At least whilst there is a bit of time, let them heed to this advice, especially on the declaration of a national disaster. Once you do that, cooperating partners will release their funds. If you pretend as a parent that all is well, can your neighbour assist you? So, let them stop pretending,” he urged.

“The UPND stands ready like any other concerned and patriotic Zambian to offer unsolicited help towards finding a solution to this imminent crisis, which, if not averted, will have a serious impact on the social and economic growth of this nation and its people. PF must stop the ongoing systematic genocide of banning movement of maize and other crops from surplus areas to deficit areas. As a matter of fact, the deficit areas have historically fed the country without any problems. This year, our people are being given a 12.5Kg of mealie-meal. We shudder to think how many Kgs (kilogrammes) if not 2.5 will be given as relief food to hunger stricken parts of this country unless resources are pulled together. There is no need to pretend. There is real hunger in our communities, especially rural areas, and the sooner the government realizes that, the better for us all. Otherwise, the distribution of maize bran will become widespread.”

He added that government should invest more in weather monitoring technology and encourage citizens to consider venturing into drought resistant crops in the long-run to help ease the effect of adverse weather conditions.

“Invest in better weather monitoring technology and improve our collaboration with experts in the field in order to improve our preparedness for uncertain times. This will also advantage our farming communities and empower them with well informed decisions pro-actively as well as actively and continuously engage the citizens and equip them in advance with the knowledge and consequences of such adverse weather conditions,” said Ngoma.