Avert looming crisis

Fri, 03 Mar 2017 10:47:05 +0000

 

CONCERNS of looming maize storage crisis in Zambia owing to the envisaged surplus of maize crop at the end of the 2016/2017 farming season need serious consideration.

And it is public knowledge that though Zambia has 458 units of storage facilities whose storage capacity is 2 million metric tonnes (MT) only 1.1 million MT is serviceable.

Probably, this overly poor record of storage capacity is what raises concerns among the stakeholders.

In a communique to the Minister of Agriculture Dora Siliya, the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU), the Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) and the Grain Traders Association of Zambia (GTAZ) state that as of 28th February, 2017, the country sits on a total of 915,000 metric tonnes of maize stocks.

According to the three farmer associations, if Zambia net out 400, 000 MT for the next four months (March-June 2017) consumption as well as the 280,000MT in FRA strategic reserve, the county has a maize surplus of 230,000MT which will interfere with the new crop for the 2017 marketing season.

In view of the above, the surplus of 230,000MT is way higher than the 21,000MT spill over which FRA had from 2015 to 2016. What effect does this have on the 2107 maize marketing season?

We agree with the farmer associations that the result of this 230,000MT carryover surplus will reduce appetite for the 2017 crop as buyers (traders and millers) are still struggling to dispose of the old maize stocks.

The repercussions of this maize oversupply which is worsened by the current ban on maize export are dire for framers, traders and millers. Their inability to sell maize and maize products actually risks them going bankrupt.

And this is likely to discourage private sector investment in maize production in the next farming season which works against Government policy to diversify Zambia’s economy from mining to agriculture.

Farming is a business. For this reason, no farmer would want to invest in agriculture if unfavourable marketing conditions will make it difficult for them to get a return on their investment.

Much as a bumper harvest would entail Zambian farmers selling their maize to the regional market as and when Government decides to lift the ban the chances are slim as countries such as Malawi and South Africa are equally forecasting surplus production this year.

We are cognisant of the mere fact that a ban on maize export is meant to guarantee national food security.

However, Government’s insistence not to lift the ban so as to compel the GTAZ to offload their stock to millers, thereby stabilise the prices of mealie meal, no longer seem to serve its intended purpose.

The intention by Government to have mooted an arrangement where millers and traders should purchase maize at a reduced price of US$45 per tonne from GTAZ, MAZ and FRA which in turn would reduce mealie meal prices from K105 to K85 per 25 kilogram has not benefited consumers of the staple food.

Why has this objective not been achieved? Is not lifting the ban on maize export going to stabilise the price of mealie meal?

It is clear that the arrangement Government entered into with the three maize industry stakeholders has not yielded desired results.

Unfortunately, since the agreement was made, only nine out of 78 millers have been able to purchase maize riding on the Tripartite Maize Sale Program (FRA, MAZ, and GTAZ) arrangement.

As a result of this, the reduction in the price of mealie meal is a paltry K5 which has not really been felt by the ordinary citizens.

Much more puzzling is the homework of how the FRA will purchase the required 2 million metric tonnes of small scale farmers’ maize with a staggering 230,000MT spill over into the 2017 marketing season.

We think that there is need for Government to carefully consider the concerns put forward by MAZ, GTAZ and ZNFU to avoid a crisis in the maize industry.

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