ZAMBIA – The Food Reserve Agency (FRA) of Zambia has started releasing 35,000 metric tonnes of maize to selected millers in Copperbelt Province to address maize shortage in the region.
According to Lusaka Times, Zambia’s President Lungu had directed FRA to release the maize to millers as an intervention on the maize and mealie meal shortages in the province.
Copperbelt is said to rely on other provinces to supply them with maize and the deplorable state of the road had hampered the delivery of the commodity thereby creating shortages in the province.
Copperbelt Minister, Japhen Mwakalombe stated that stakeholders approached his office and the Office of the President to avert hunger due to the perceived shortage of maize for millers.
He urged millers to ensure that mealie meal is reasonably priced and available, saying that the government through FRA will intervene either when there are price distortions which make mealie meal unaffordable or when mealie meal is not available.
While the government’s intervention into stable supply of the country’s staple is highly commendable, it may be disturbing since the ‘shortage’ comes barely a month the crop-marketing season closed.
FRA had targeted to reach the strategic national reserve of purchasing 500,000 metric tonnes of maize in this year’s crop marketing season by buying maize from farmers at a producer price.
The FRA only purchased 172,000 metric tonnes of maize out of the projected 500,000 metric tonnes, excluding other grain stocks in reserve.
Last month, FRA Executive Director, Chola Kamfwabulula said the agency had bought 55,000 metric tons of maize out of the targeted 105,000 metric tons in Northern province, where it purchased most of the grain during the previous season.
With the intervention of President Lungu, FRA had offered to buy the maize from farmers for US$7.02 (Kwacha 70), opening a door for other players including millers to buy the grain.
At the end of last month, Minister of Agriculture Michael Katambo encouraged the private sectors players such as millers and grain traders to buy the commodity from the open market.
An overwhelming crop season in the previous year was attributed to the restriction ban on maize exports outside the country.