Agriculture Minister Micheal Katambo has announced that Zambia currently has over one million metric tonnes of maize, representing just eight months of food security.
And Katambo has complained that rampant maize smuggling remains a major threat to the country’s food security as it has rapidly escalated this year.
Meanwhile, the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) says they have signed 25 contracts with millers and grain traders and have so far offloaded in excess of 90,000 metric tonnes of subsidized maize to reduce mealie meal prices on the local market.
Speaking when he announced the results of the Maize Stocks Assessment Survey that was done in collaboration with the Zambia Statistics Agency (ZSA), Katambo disclosed that the country currently had over one million metric tonnes of maize, representing just eight months of food security.
Katambo, however, hoped that the announcement of the country’s food security situation should stop market players from engaging in speculative behaviour of stockpiling maize in the hope of making abnormal profits.
“I wish to assure the nation that the country’s food security situation is under control and the country will not experience a national food crisis between now and the next harvest. With these assurances, let me urge all players in the industry to resist the temptation of engaging in speculative behaviour of stockpiling maize in hope of making abnormal profits. The survey results and the figures presented by the Stocks Monitoring Committee indicate that the total quantity of maize available in the country stands at 1,037,777.7 metric tonnes. Let me now give you the total breakdown of the maize that we have in the country. The small and medium-scale farmers in all provinces are estimated to be in possession of 394,991 metric tonnes of maize, whilst large-scale farmers in the country are estimated to have in reserve 63,863 metric tonnes of maize in stock,” Katambo said.
“Further, the millers that are represented by the Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) have reported to be in possession of 112,329 metric tonnes and the grain traders that are represented by the Grain Traders Association of Zambia (GTAZ) have 180,346.1 metric tonnes of maize in stock, while the stock feed manufacturers have 60,000 metric tonnes. Ladies and gentlemen, you may wish to note that the Food Reserve Agency has a total of 226,247 metric tonnes of maize as strategic reserves. The results highlights the distribution of maize by province is evidence that there is maize being held by small and medium-scale farmers in the country. The results are also evidence that there is need to concentrate efforts to improve the supply of maize in Western and Southern provinces.”
He stressed that the country’s maize stocks were enough to last up to next July.
“Now that the actual maize stock figures have been presented, let me update you in the food security situation in the country. You may wish to note that for planning purposes, my Ministry uses an estimate of 120,000 metric tonnes to represent the country’s monthly consumption required. Therefore, going by the stock figures I have presented, you will note that the country has sufficient stocks of maize to last a total of eight months, up to July, 2020. In other ways, if the smuggling of maize and mealie meal remains under control, the maize available in the country of 1,037,777.7 metric tonnes is adequate to see us through to the next harvest. However, around June, 2020, in fact, we expect some maize to start coming from the market in April, 2020, because of the early maize project that government has facilitated in partnership with the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU), who are currently estimating the expected yield to the early maize,” Katambo said.
But he bemoaned that rampant maize smuggling remained a major threat to the country’s food security as it had rapidly escalated this year.
“Despite the country having enough maize to meet its needs, we have observed that during the course of the year, the rampant smuggling of maize and mealie meal is adding pressure to the supply of maize, which we require. As you are all aware, the smuggling of maize and mealie meal has increased exponentially in the current year. This has been mostly due to the fact that most countries in the region have struggled to produce enough maize to meet their domestic needs. The situation in the region has made it clear and very difficult to control smuggling as the number of individuals engaged in this illegal activity has increased. However, let me assure everyone that your government is doing everything possible to ensure that no single grain of maize leaves our borders illegally. You may wish to note that through the defense and security wings, the smuggling of maize and mealie meal is being tackled aggressively,” said Katambo.
And FRA executive director Chola Kafwabulula said the response to the tripartite agreement had been good, with some millers already having reduced their price of mealie meal to K130 per 25Kg breakfast bag.
“In the tripartite agreement that we have as FRA with the Millers Association of Zambia and the grain traders, we have signed in excess of 25 contracts, meaning that over 25 millers and grain traders have signed these contracts to reduce the mealie meal prices. In terms of the quantity that has been offloaded in these contracts, the quantity is in excess of 90,000 metric tonnes; I am saying in excess because on a daily basis, we keep signing more and more contracts. And let me take this opportunity to confirm that in fact some millers have already responded to reducing mealie meal prices at K130 per 25kg bag, ex-factory. So, the response has been extremely good and we are also encouraged by the fact that we are getting more and more contracts. In terms of the smuggling issues, the latest that we have is that more than 40 trucks, and you will be surprised that including small motor vehicles, such as Corolla’s have been impounded, including bicycles have been impounded, in the smuggling of maize, but we need to look at the latest update,” said Kafwabulula.
Meanwhile, the Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) president Andrew Chintala assured the nation that mealie meal prices would stabilize in line with millers’ current agreement with the FRA.
“Currently, Millers Association of Zambia, Grain Traders Association of Zambia and FRA have signed an agreement in terms of securing the supply of maize to the millers in order to stabilize mealie meal prices that have been sky-rocketing in the past few weeks,” said Chintala.