Thu, 22 Feb 2018 07:31:34 +0000
By CHARLES MUSONDA
WE will not release any maize to millers because there is still enough grain on the open market, says Food Reserve Agency (FRA) Executive Director Chola Kafwabulula.
In an exclusive interview in Lusaka yesterday, Mr. Kafwabulula said FRA had 600, 000 metric tonnes of maize in strategic reserves and the grain was not committed to any party.
“The maize we are talking about is from the last season whose production was 3.6 million metric tonnes. From this 3.6 million metric tonnes FRA bought only 517, 000 metric tonnes, leaving 3.1 million metric tonnes. Where has it gone?
“In a year as a country we consume approximately 1.2 to 1.4 million metric tonnes. Now if we are remaining with 3.1 million metric tonnes and a year has not elapsed from the time this 3.6 million metric tonnes was produced, where has this 3.1 million gone?” Mr. Kafwabulula said.
He added: “As far as we are concerned, we should be having maize in circulation. There is still maize out there and we should not be given an impression that there isn’t enough maize. If we didn’t have enough maize in the country we would have seen it.
“It appears there are some stakeholders who want to turn FRA into their warehouse. They would rather keep their maize stocks and put pressure on FRA to release the maize or they do not want to go and buy from the farmers because there will be the process of cleaning the maize and the huge transportation cost.” He said the millers in question wanted to pass on such costs to FRA because they were located near the agency whose maize was export quality because it was already cleaned up and packaged. “The shortage which is there is artificial. As people who are mandated to look after the national food security we want to ensure that the stock that we are sitting on is not easily compromised by just selling it on the market carelessly. We will not do that and we refuse to do that. “We want to be cautious on how this maize is released and we want to release this maize only when we are supposed to do so.
The FRA Act is clear that we should only release strategic reserves when there isn’t enough maize on the market so that the price of mealie meal can reduce,” Mr. Kafwabulula said.
He said all players in the maize marketing industry knew that in the last two years, Government had issued policy guidelines that those who wanted maize should buy their own grain from either farmers or traders and nothing had changed. “FRA is only supposed to release maize to vulnerable institutions such as DMMU, the school feeding programme, prisons, and hospitals. This bumper harvest was produced less than 12 months ago and where has the bumper harvest gone? Please don’t tell me that this maize was smuggled out.
“As someone who is experienced in this field, I will not accept anyone telling me that this maize was smuggled out.
“Because even 200,000 metric tonnes is such a big volume that cannot be smuggled out through the borders using bicycles. It is not a simple thing, this is a sea of maize and I don’t know how to describe it.”