AGRICULTURE Minister Reuben Mtolo Phiri says all 10 provinces have been hit by army worms.

And Phiri says Zambia has enough maize stock to feed the country for a year.

At a press briefing, Thursday, Phiri said 96 districts out of 116 districts had reported outbreaks of army worms, which had affected 129,517 households and 96,221.50 hectares of maize fields.

“During the 2021/22 agriculture season, all the 10 provinces have reported the infestation of the fall army worm (faw) on the maize crop. In terms of district reports, 96 districts out of the 116 districts have reported outbreaks. So far, the fall armyworm outbreak has affected 129,517 households and 96,221.50 hectares of maize fields. I would like to report that my Ministry has so far distributed a total of 110,000 litres of chemicals in all the 10 provinces,” he said.

“We have also procured and distributed personal protective equipment such as sprayers, gum boots and work suits to the provinces. I should emphasize that the distribution of chemicals in provinces has been done with the sole purpose of dealing with reported outbreaks and minimizing the damage to the maize crop grown by farmers. The Ministry therefore wishes to advise affected farmers to contact their nearest extension staff so that appropriate action is taken.”

He said 164,674 farmers out of the total of 165,742 farmers who had supplied maize to the Food Reserve Agency had been paid their dues.

“At the close of the marketing season, the Food Reserve Agency purchased a total of 947,777.55 metric tonnes of white maize, 121.60 metric tonnes of soya beans and 656.80 metric tonnes of paddy rice from farmers across the country. I would like to state that there are quantities of grain that are still unsecured in various locations. However, we are working closely with the Ministry of Defence to ensure that all the grain is safely stored in secure locations,” he said.

“The total value of the maize crop supplied by farmers was k2, 842,779,446 and to date, the entire amount has been released by the Treasury and disbursed to participating banks in each district. I am happy to announce that the payment of farmers is currently progressing very well; and that 164,674 farmers out of the total of 165,742 farmers who had supplied maize to the agency have been paid their dues. This leaves a balance of 1,068 farmers who are currently being paid.”

And Phiri said government would not stop the exportation of maize, mealie meal and maize bran as doing so would be setting a wrong precedence.

“We have allowed exports of maize, mealie meal and maize bran. What we need in Zambia is way within our quantities, we have sufficient [stock]. So we will not stop exports, we will not ban exports. Immediately you start banning exports in a country you are setting a very wrong precedence. What mitigates these things is just supply and demand. Right now for example, our maize is not moving so much for one simple reason, when the Kwacha gained strength our maize became less attractive on the international market. So that is a natural way in which the market will take care of itself,” Phiri said.

“FRA had set a price for people to buy and export maize at K200 a bag which is K4000 per metric tonnes, which at that time was translating to about US$230 Dollars per tonne which was very attractive. But the Kwacha gained strength, the US$230 moved to about US$250/ US$260. Naturally there was a slow down, so our part as a Ministry is not to be there and stifle movement of agriculture trade, no! Ours is just to make sure that the surface is even. Even surface is to allow the borders. Those who can sell the maize and mealie meal at the current prices, they are most welcome and we will not stop it.”

And Phiri said Zambia had enough maize to feed the country even if nothing was produced in this farming season.

“However, as a Ministry, we will make sure that the country has enough stock in an event that this weather pattern washes away all our crops. I would like to assure the nation that even if Zambia produces nothing next year, nothing comes out, we will still have sufficient crop to feed the country for the whole year. We have enough grain. We will make sure that the Food Reserve Agency, the Ministry of Agriculture, and other relevant Ministries, we work together and make sure that the country is food secure. That you should always know that the group which you have put at the Ministry will take care of that interest,” said Phiri.