Chief Mazimawe of the Ngoni people of Eastern Province has advised farmers to diversify from maize-growing, warning that the food crop has become too political to rely on for its cultivation and sale.

And the traditional leader adds that the maize floor-price which government sets for farmer does not always reflect the cost of producing the crop.

Chief Mazimawe was speaking during a public forum organised by News Diggers, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) and Breeze FM in Chipata, Thursday, under the topic “Plight of a farmer Vs government’s response; FISP, E-voucher Vs maize floor price”.

“Currently, people have started receiving their inputs, seed and fertilizer, using the old system. So far non of our people have complained. The only problem is that the department of agriculture hasn’t done much in engaging people and that’s what always brings about problems during the time when government makes pronouncements on the prices of maize. Everybody understands that maize has become so political. We are even now discouraging our people not to rely only on maize because it’s more political and even the price that is pronounced sometimes does not reflect the cost of producing the crop,” Gogo Madzimawe said.

“Also, when it comes to making pronouncements, no one also engages the people to explain because normally what comes out are complaints that the price is very low. So proper coordination hasn’t been there. Also we haven’t diversified much to grow other crops which can earn our farmers an income which is at a profit.”

And Chief Mazimawe observed that the tendency by the Food Reserve Agency to pay farmers late, was a big problem because it was difficult for farmers to prepare.

“We also have this problem where farmers are paid after supplying Food Reserve Agency crops, after some months. This is a very serious problem because its difficult for the farmer to prepare. Stakeholders have raised this issue but FRA has failed to change. [This is why] I say maize has a lot of politics, because if FRA pronounces prices which reflects the real value, we might have a problem again where government fails to secure maize from the reserves,” he said.

Chief Mazimawe urged farmers to find ways and means of standing on their own.

“If government wants us to grow maize, under National Food Security, we should produce this maize without the support from government. That will be the beginning of overcoming this cry of having lower prices,” chief Mazimawe said.

He also added that farmers who feel government was not providing the much needed support were free to do away with the partnership, just like those who are in abusive marriages were encouraged to leave those abusive spouses.