STAKEHOLDERS have called on government to open up borders and allow the crop marketing season to proceed without any interventions so that farmers can be motivated to continue producing a variety of crops in the country.

Speaking when they featured on Wednesday’s edition of Morning Live on ZNBC, HIVOS advocacy officer for sustainable diets William Chilufya noted that government, through the Food Reserve Agency, should not announce a floor price but buy silently so that market forces are not influenced.

“So marketing in this country is sort of a challenge for farmers. This is where as Hivos, we are particularly disappointed with government announcing the floor price of maize. We subscribe to the idea that we are a free market system and that no crop needs to be prescribed in terms of how much it should cost, we have to let the market forces do so for themselves. Before the announcement, some farmers were selling the maize for k150, some k120 but the fact that now the forecast has been announced, now everybody wants to go for k110 and what happens, we are killing the farmer. I know the other school of thought is saying if the maize bought at a higher amount then the mealie meal will also be expensive but it’s really a two-way thing because you want to ensure households buy cheaper mealie meal, on the other side a farmer has to survive with a favorable prices to so that they grow more in future – the low floor price is simply killing. So in the mean time you might think that you are sorting out the problem but when in the long run you will find that very few people will be interested in farming,” Chilufya said.

“So as Hivos, we think that we have to let the free market rule and we have to open up our borders to ensure that farmers really make the best out of that. So we really have to ensure that these type of foods find themselves across the country and this is where we think the FRA plays a very key role. They can play a key role in terms of purchasing but not to announce because when they announce and government is the one that’s announcing and no one can compete with the government, the government is bigger than all of us. The private sector really struggles to compete with the FRA. So what the FRA can do is they can go and silently buy and ensure that they are taking some of these crops to these areas. We haven’t heard FRA talk about sorghum, we haven’t heard FRA talk about millet but these are very important crops that need to find themselves everywhere. Farmers need to be encouraged.”

He said there was need for the country to embrace foods such as millet and sorghum as opposed to reliance on maize which was less nutritious.

“The main reason we are excited about the bumper harvest at Hivos is that this time we have recorded high production even in crops that matter the most in improving the nutrition status. Our bodies don’t depend on a type of crop or food, our bodies require different types of food for us to be healthy. So if we have bumper harvest in different types foods, it means that our bodies will also have access or they are going to consume different types of food and that will contribute to having a healthy population. As you might be aware, this country we have 35 percent of children under five [years] stunted, we also have a huge number that is coming up in terms of obesity. So this whole thing to us about the latest crop this year and the bumper harvest is about can these find a way to our plates so we can diversify. But then access to food is one thing but do you have access to good food and this is where we are excited to say okay fine, we are moving slowing to increase g the milllet and sorghum which are much more nutritious that the maize,” said Chilufya.

And speaking on the same program, Millers Association of Zambia president Andrew Chintala noted that lack of motivation by not allowing farmers to freely export their produce would lead to low production next season.

“You see, the farmers have produced this year and we must commend them for the hard work that they have pushed, 93 percent of the crop we are talking about here has been produced by the small scale farmers and now if we are going to restrict the exports and the trade what are we saying, what message are we sending to the farmers. Next year, they won’t produce maize, they will either produce any other crop. So this is why it’s important that to free the market and allow farmers and Miller’s to trade. And I think the case in point here is that we support the export of value added products we do not support the export of maize in it’s raw form because what happens is that when you are exporting maize, you are exporting jobs, you are 3xporting other by-products as well. So it’s imperative that government maintains consistency with reference to open border policies because this what is going to stimulate the growth of the agriculture sector and further boost the production of maize going forward. So we feel that the borders should be open,” he said.

“So we don’t expect any interventions on the market, let’s open the market and allow the maize marketing season to progress based on the market forces to determine the prices of these commodities. Let’s open the borders, let’s try and free the market so that at least we can attract a good price on the domestic market.”

Chintala said the price of maize was expected to drop and assured of a steady supply of mealie meal as measures have been put in place to avoid the shortages that had hit some parts of the country a few months ago.

“Absolutely I think that we believe that the prices will greatly drop to affordable prices for the consumer out there and obviously one more thing is that we are assured and we can assure the consumers that they expect to see a stable supply of the commodity. Remember just a few months ago we had the issue to do with shortages in some parts of the country as a result of the supply of the commodity. But obviously when we want to discuss in terms of numbers and prices, this is something I was trying that look, it’s quite interesting, the farmer on the other side says ‘look the price is too low’ and then they want to get a higher price and the consumer on the other side says ‘no, price of mealie meal shouldn’t go up’. So really if we were to go by the market forces and allow the market forces to come at play then obviously the prices of maize and mealie meal will actually find an equilibrium somewhere there were we may find a balance in terms of getting the actual cost of these commodities,” said Chintala.

Meanwhile, economic and financial analyst Trevor Hambayi highlighted the importance of export.

“So of the things as a country is that we are supposed to be a free market economy which is driven by supply and demand. The export market creates a lucrative market for potentially farmers to increase their income and there should have been a system which allows for that,” said Hambayi.