Farmers protest FRA wit…h prices reduced sales
‘‘This was expected because even the FRA itself admitted at the time they were announcing their buying price of K65 that they were going to have a very competitive marketing season.’’
THE failure by Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to buy its targeted 500, 000 metric tonnes of maize during this maize marketing season is a protest by farmers over its poor prices, says the Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU). Commenting on the failure by FRA to meet its target and only managing to mop up a paltry 172, 000 metric tonnes of the grain, ZNFU public relations manager Kelvin Kaleyi yesterday told the Daily Nation that the current situation was expected and was purely a result of stuborness by the agency when pegging prices. Mr. Kaleyi said ZNFU was not surprised with the turn of events because even the FRA itself had admitted that it would be difficult to meet its target because of its low prices. “This was expected because even the FRA itself admitted at the time they were announcing their buying price of K65 that they were going to have a very competitive marketing season. To us, it doesn’t come as a surprise because farmers got as much as K95 per 50 kilogram bag of maize from private buyers which was K25 above what FRA was offering. “The market for the farmers this season was private-sector driven. FRA tried all it could but failed to convince farmers to sell. It only managed to get much of that maize in Northern Province. On the Copperbelt, for instance, they only managed to buy about 1000 tonnes and that tells you how bad their price was,” Mr. Kaleyi said. He said had it not been for the fact that Government had restricted exports, Zambia was going to be food insecure due to such lacklustre decisions by the agency as most grain traders would have exported most of their grain. “Government realised that if it allowed maize exports, we were not going to have enough food as a country and that is why it put that restrictive measure which in essence is a ban on maize exports. This was done to ensure that even if the country does not have enough stock at FRA, we can still have enough as the commodity will be circulating within the country. “Government knows that if the maize is with the traders and the millers and they are controlling business, it is easy to be food secure. The only comforting aspect is that there was that 300,000 metric tonnes surplus from the other year which puts us in a good position. Otherwise, without this and if the country exported its stock, hunger would have been stalking us by now,” he said. He warned that FRA risked being irrelevant if it continued making decisions that disadvantaged the farmers. “Right now, FRA is operating with a red flag because they know that if exports are allowed, we can be in a precarious situation as a country. This calls for re-strategising its marketing system, otherwise going forward, this agency risks being irrelevant because people would rather sell to the private sector which is offering better prices,” he said.
This was expected because even the FRA itself admitted at the time they were announcing their buying price of K65 that they were going to have a very competitive marketing season.” — Mr Kaleyi.