Agriculture Minister Michael Katambo says the country is food secure because the maize which the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) buys can cover for up to five years.

And Katambo says there is no need to panic over the food situation in the country.

Speaking when he featured on ZNBC’s Sunday Interview, Katambo said no miller who accessed subsidized maize from FRA was allowed to sell mealie meal at more than K90 per 25 kilogram bag.

“Let me assure the nation that as we stand now, the country is very much food secure. We are [also] anticipating to harvest about two million plus metric tonnes of maize although there is a slight decline from the last farming season where we produced about 2.3 million metric tonnes. So there is a slight decline by 300, 000 metric tonnes. As you are aware, in the other year 2017/2018, we produced about 3.6 metric tonnes of maize and with the carry-over stocks; the country was able to manage its strategic reserves in order to cater for the country. And besides that, we still have some carry-over stocks. The country’s maize that we buy in the strategic reserves under the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) is able to stay up to close to five years in the strategic reserves. Meaning the carryovers that we have now, the country is food secure,” Katambo said.

And Katambo said there was no need to panic over Zambia’s food security.

“There is no need to cause an alarm or panic that maybe Zambia would run into food shortages. With the carryover food stocks that we have other than the Food Reserve Agency, we have maize in the private sectors’ hands who are holding on to these quantities of maize, the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU), the Millers Association, the Grain Traders Association, they have got close to 475, 000 metric tonnes in their storage facilities, which means that the country is food secure,” he said.

“Of course there could be a complaint of human monthly consumption, industrial consumption and any other taking into account crop harvest losses and other cross border trades close to about 400, 000 metric tonnes which is supposed to be consumed by these indicators. The other worry is that on the Southern Province of our country where we’ve been hit by dry spells where there is a serious concern with the exports that we allowed last year and exports that we have now banned to manage our food security in the country, so these exports have been restricted again.”

Katambo said government was allowed to export about 120, 000 metric tonnes of maize in the last marketing season of which, 56,000 was offloaded to the millers.

“Through the Food Reserve Agency in our strategic reserves, we were allowed to export about 120, 000 metric tonnes of maize. So we offloaded about 56, 000 metric tonnes of maize which selected millers accessed maize through the Food Reserve Agency in order to stabilize the market price of mealie-meal and make it affordable for our citizens. Of course, there is an issue of demand and supply, issue of maize grain or mealie meal from a retailer up to a consumer who is a citizen,” he said.

Meanwhile, the minister said millers who accessed subsidized maize from FRA should sell their commodity at less than K90 per 25 kilogram bag.

“So for sure in other quarters we have heard that mealie-meal price is over K100 per bag but as FRA or government, we do not predetermine the price for those who have gotten the maize from the private sector. But we are able to trace and track with those millers who have gotten subsidized maize from the Food Reserve Agency. [For those that accessed subsidized maize from FRA], they are supposed to sell a bag of breakfast mealie-meal around K85 to K87, and roller meal at about K80 or K85 but of course,” said Katambo.

He also urged Millers not to be dependent on the FRA strategic reserves, advising them to open up to the markets and buy and much as they can from there.