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IT is high time that farmers realised that farming is serious business and demand that their produce is sold at the proper market price for them to make a realistic return on their investments.

This is the more reason why we question farmers in Muchinga Province who have allowed themelves to be hoodwinked by bogus traders and buying their maize crop at give-away prices.

For why should someone who was able to sell his 50-kilogramme bag of maize accept K65  instead of K110  which was set for last year’s marketing season to the Food Reserve Agency (FRA)?

We do not agree that the farmers are being forced to accept this unacceptable price because the government through the FRA has delayed to start buying their maize. 

According to Isoka District Co-operative Union manager Benard Sichilongo, the farmers are forced to sell cheaply because the Government through FRA has delayed to start buying the produce from them and unscrupulous buyers were taking advantage of them.

He said in an interview that the invasion of foreign buyers was a danger to food security at both household and national level.

But Mr Sichilongo should also have advised the farmers about the advantages of doing business with the FRA.

Yesterday, Government through the FRA announced an increase in the maize purchase price for a 50kg bag from K110 to K150.

At a media briefing in Lusaka, the FRA board chairperson, Mr Kelvin Hambwezya, said they would this year buy between 500, 000 and 1, 000, 000 tonnes of maize.  He said the white maize which was bought at K110 last year would be K150 per 50 kg this year.

This is a better offer that farmers who had the patience to wait would accept gladly.  At least the price provides them with a minimum value at which to gauge their price on the market.

For while the FRA might delay in buying their maize, it is an open secret that the marketing agency is a trusted dealer and has also improved its payment system such that farmers do not undergo delayed payments.

They ought to realise that while the so-called briefcase buyers might solve their immediate cash-flow problems, dealing with the FRA guarantees increased income.

With increased income, the farmers would probably be in a position to invest in capital projects for their agricultural businesses on a long-term basis.

We know that there are farmers in other regions who sell their maize even before it is harvested.  Such a system does not in anyway end the poverty cycle among most peasant farmers.

They actually remain in perpetural poverty even when they have a good yield – they would have chewed their money on trivial things than waiting for the harvest to sell their crop.

The farmers who did not have the patience to wait are probably regretting at their loss of income had they exercised patience.

Farming, as wel have said is a business and fpeople, particularly small-scale farmers must realise that they need to grow.  But they can only grow when they do away with briefcase buyers who want to reap where they did not sow.

It pays to be patient.

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