ZAMBIA – The Millers Association of Zambia says the government needs to urgently review storage capacity in view of the overwhelming amount of maize collected during the current crop marketing season.
But agriculture minister Wylbur Simuusa says the millers should consider buying more maize directly from farmers rather than solely relying on the Food Reserve Agency.
Last Tuesday, the FRA said the amount of maize collected so far was overwhelming, with its executive director Chola Kafwabulula claiming last Friday that some of the big farmers had not yet sold their produce and that the agency looked set to reach its projected target of 500,000 metric tonnes.
But MAZ president, Allan Sakala, said the amount of maize collected by the agency raised urgent concerns pertaining to the storage capacity that might need to be addressed to contain the extra maize and avert possible crop wastage.
“If the FRA bought the 500,000 [tonnes] and they have a carry-over stock of 400,000 [tonnes], that means their storage capacity has been over-stretched.
As millers, we only have stocking capacity of maize which can only last three months and after that, it becomes difficult because the storage capacities are very limited,” Sakala said in an interview in Lusaka.
He said millers hoped that the government would urgently consider releasing funds for more slab upgrades.
“We hope that the government can release more money so that they can upgrade the remaining slabs, which can keep the maize in the areas where the maize is produced because right now most of the storage capacity is found in urban areas,” he said.
But Simuusa said all stakeholders, including millers, should play a more active role in the purchasing of maize to help reduce the amount of stock that could potentially go to waste.
“The millers and the private sector are waiting for the FRA to give them the maize and probably avoid storage costs. As government, we have got 745,000 metric tonnes worth of secure storage already in place, and by October or September, we will add another 119,000 so we will have close to a million metric tonnes worth of storage,” said Simuusa in a separate interview.
The FRA has been upgrading 27 hard-standing slabs into sheds in five provinces expected to add storage capacity of 117,000 metric tonnes, and are due to be completed this month.