AGRICULTURE Minister Reuben Phiri says the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) will procure an extra 300,000 metric tonnes of maize after exceeding its initial target of 500,000 metric tonnes for the 2021 marketing season.

Responding to a question from Pambashe PF member of parliament Ronald Chitotela on whether government would continue procuring maize from the farmers, Friday, Phiri said FRA would continue procuring maize until it reached its new target of 800,000 metric tonnes.

“Yes, I wish to confirm to the honourable member for Pambashe that FRA purchased the target that was initially given, that is 500,000 metric tonnes. However, FRA was asked to procure up to 800,000 tonnes as at now. Because of that, we are going to continue up to 800,000 metric tonnes. When we reach that target, we will advise accordingly. So, they were asked to procure a further 300,000 metric tonnes. If that figure has to change, the nation will be informed so that people are aware of what the Agency is doing. Madam Speaker, the effective price which FRA is using to pay the farmers is K150 and I am not aware of any other price that would come into effect,” Phiri said.

Earlier, Chinsali PF member of parliament Kalalwe Mukosa asked whether government was aware that a lot of maize from farmers was going to waste at FRA depots in Chinsali and other depots countrywide due to a critical shortage of grain bags.

The parliamentarian also asked what urgent measures were being taken to provide grain bags to FRA depots to avert further loss of maize.

In response, Phiri said FRA had procured an extra 1.2 million empty grain bags which were to be dispatched at FRA depots countrywide.

“The Ministry is aware that there is a shortage of empty grain bags in some FRA satellite depots, including those in Chinsali Parliamentary Constituency. The Food Reserve Agency has since dispatched some empty grain bags to all affected satellite depots. The Ministry is also engaging the Ministry of Finance to release funds to pay the suppliers and also to procure more empty grain bags. I would like to assure the member that the Ministry has limited the request for finance to only empty grain bags,” said Phiri.

“Madam Speaker, as of yesterday (Thursday) the FRA had procured an extra 1.2 million empty grain bags, this is an ongoing process. So, the bags which were dispatched are up to 1.2 million as of yesterday. The bags started rolling out yesterday and as of yesterday, 270,000 empty grain bags had been dispatched to the various locations. In certain locations which are nearby, the bags have already started arriving, in areas which are distant like Kawambwa, maybe it might take by tomorrow the bags will start arriving. We are going to work very hard Madam Speaker to ensure that before the heavy onset of rains, most of the depots receive the empty grain bags. I want to believe by the weekend the grain bags will have been received.”