ZAMBIA– The Food Reserve Agency (FRA) will buy a 50-kilogram bag of maize at 65 Kwacha (US$6.5) for the 2018 crop marketing season, a five kwacha (US 50 cents) increase from last year, reports Lusaka Times.

FRA Board Chairman Joe Simachela says the price has been arrived at after a wide consultation with stakeholders among them Zambia National Farmers Union and Millers Association of Zambia among others.

Addressing the media in Lusaka, Mr. Simachela said the agency will only buy about 500,000 metric tons of white maize as part of strategic food reserves and advised millers to go in the market and buy maize because the agency will not supply them.

He said the agency has set the crop marketing season to begin on or before August 1st which is expected to see the moisture content drop to 12.5 percent from 13.82 percent as at July 12th.

Mr. Simachela says the agency already has 300,000 metric tons remaining from last year’s reserves in its storage shades.

He said government is committed to releasing funds on time to pay farmers within two weeks of supplying maize to FRA depots for the exercise expected to cost slightly over 1 billion kwacha (US$100 million).

The FRA Board Chairman had also revealed that the agency will this year only buy maize, soya beans and paddy rice because of budgetary constraints.

And FRA Chief Executive Officer Chola Kafwabulula says the agency will face some tough time buying maize considering high prices that are being offered in neighbouring countries coupled with a drop in maize production from over 3 million metric tonnes last year to the anticipated 2.3 million metric tonnes for the 2017-2018 crop forecast survey.

The National Union of Small Scale Farmers of Zambia Director General Frank Kayula says his association expected the price to be 80 Kwacha (US$ 8) for a 50 kilogram bag of maize instead of 65 Kwacha (US$6.5).

He says the FRA price is low considering various changes in the economy.

Dr. Kayula says he expects most farmers to look for alternative markets instead of the FRA and may abandon maize for other crops going forward.

The Millers Association of Zambia President Andrew Chintala says his association was part of the consultations and have already moved into the market.

Mr. Chintala says the moisture content in most provinces has already dropped to 12.5 percent.

He says millers annually buy over 1.8 million metric tonnes of maize for human and animal consumption.

Lusaka Times