ZAMBIA – The Zambia National Farmers Union has charged that the recently announced K65 (US$6.50) per 50kg market price offered by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) is absurd and horrendously low

ZNFU President Jervis Zimba has since called for untampered functioning of market conditions and open borders.

“We urge government to maintain consistency in the export of agriculture commodities as the food balance sheet figures declared that a surplus of 341,313 MT could potentially be exported,” Mr Zimba said in a statement.

Mr Zimba said ZNFU has disassociated itself from being party to the announced FRA price which farmers have been offered.

“On Friday 13th July 2018 the ZNFU Board led by the ZNFU president Mr. Jervis Zimba held a meeting with the Minister of Agriculture Honourable Michael Katambo and officials at the Ministry, including the Permanent Secretary Mr. Julius Shawa.

The Union provided the production costs for various agriculture commodities, including maize and soya beans to sensitize Government on costs that farmers incur in producing the maize.”

“At no time was the setting of maize prices discussed and the Minister had just issued a statement in Parliament that Government is not involved in the setting of maize prices,” he added.

Mr Zimba stated that the Union has not met the FRA to discuss maize prices after last years’ efforts yielded a blank because FRA told the Union it was Government that set the K60/50KG with no consultation and Government insisted it was FRA.

“As a Union that represents all farmers in this country, we have been informed that the issue of producer prices has been left to the whims of market forces.

Therefore, Government should yield to these dictates but offer an economic price to far flung areas,” he said.

“We find the statement that the Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) was consulted at a stakeholders’ meeting to arrive at the K65 (US$6.50) for a 50kg bag of maize by the FRA disingenuous as the ZNFU did not attend such a meeting.”

Mr Zimba said a formal complaint will be launched with Government because the Union stands ready to dialogue with Government if called upon to do so but not engaging in spin media tactics.

“We also refuse to be used to legitimize a price that the Union has had no input in determining hence advise farmers to find better markets and employ prudent ways of selling their maize,” Mr Zimba said.

“The ZNFU also calls on the Ministry of Agriculture to expedite the issuance of Export Permits for the surplus crop so that farmers can find alternative markets.”

He added, “To the Farmers, now that the FRA has announced its price for maize, farmers should target to sell their maize at a profit. The Union has produced production costs to guide farmers as they sell their crops.”

Mr Zimba added that bulking and selling consolidated volumes is bound to attract a better price as opposed to selling individually.

“To realise this, Zamace is a good platform for posting parcels of maize to sell,” he said.

Mr Zimba said farmers should also consider making use of the warehouse receipts arrangements because if all farmers try to sell maize at once, prices will drop even further.

“To Government, the Union has absorbed the policy direction loud and clear because the maize prices offered in 2017 and now in 2018 are not an incentive to grow maize.”

He said, “Last year, the Union forewarned that maize production will drop and the 2018 production confirms this fact, production dropped by 33.6% from 3.6 million tonnes in 2017 to 2.3 million tonnes expected production in 2018 but stocks have remained at seemingly comfortable levels for food security because of carryover stocks.

Lusaka Times