Chipili Independent Member of Parliament Jewis Chabi says the PF government pegged the maize floor price at K85 per bag in 2016 because it was an election year and the ruling party needed votes from farmers.
In an interview with News diggers! Chabi said farmers in his area had opted to sell their maize to private buyers who were buying the commodity for the same price as the Food Reserve Agency was offering, but on cash.
“That’s what everyone is thinking including me as area MP. Everyone is saying that the price of maize last year was put at k85 because it was elections year and now that they have been voted into power, they don’t care anymore. Perhaps they will come again to increase the price when they see that its 2021. So that is what everybody is saying that last year it was just a campaign gimmick. And in my language we say ‘tabalaba uwakubeyele ulukusu mumpanga’ (Never forget the person who helped you cut your hair while you were in the bush),” Chabi said.
“Just like any other farmer in other parts of the country, farmers in Chipili never expected that the floor price would be as low as it has been put by FRA. Farmers in Chipili also expected that it will be maintained just the way it was last year or even be increased, nobody expected this reduction. In fact most of the farmers have sold their maize to the millers and other private buyers because even if they sold their maize to government, they will not be paid there and then so if they will not be paid there and then, it’s better to sell to a private buyer who is paying cash for the same price as government,” Chabi said.
He said government should have prepared the farmers psychologically that the floor price would be reduced.
“Otherwise it was a disappointment to the farmers in Chipili that the price had been reduced. What was going to be better was perhaps to explain to the farmers way back that the floor price would be reduced because that way the farmer could have had time to plan ahead in terms of what they would do next. But to be told in the 11th hour after they had spent all they had expecting that a good price would be put forward was unexpected and very hard for the farmers to comprehend.”
Chabi advised farmers to diversify into growing other crops like cassava and groundnuts so that they do not find themselves in a similar situation as now.
“So my advice to the farmers is that perhaps, come this farming season, they should consider diversifying from maize to something like Cassava because we have got ready market here in Luapula where we have had a number of companies that have come up to buy cassava. So the best for the farmer is to go into cassava farming so that they don’t experience what they have faced this year. It was very unfortunate for that poor farmer in Chipili because all of them are peasant farmers, none of them go beyond five hectors. Now you can imagine the expense of doing a one hector, plus the army worms, heavy rains, late delivery of farming inputs and some farmers didn’t even collect their inputs because the e-voucher system failed them, all that affected their productivity,” said Chabi.