THE Food Reserve Agency (FRA) should be commended for starting early to build the country’s strategic maize reserves by offering a good price to farmers.

It is an open secret that the country does not have any reliable maize in reserve to talk about, hence the high cost of mealie meal in the country.

To kickstart the programme, FRA has offered farmers with what it hopes is an attractive offer of K330 per 50kg bag of maize.

FRA executive director Mwansa Chamatete said the agency would buy a 50- kilogramme bag of maize at K330 or K6, 600 per metric tonne from farmers.

It is important that farmers are assured of a good return for their labour through attractive maize prices.  An attractive price would encourage more farmers to grown maize.

Thus, we find it encouraging that the price being offered by the FRA has been accepted by the Small-scale Farmers Development Agency (SAFADA).

SAFADA Executive Director Boyd Moobwe said the K330 was a good price considering the current demand for the commodity due to reduced supply.

As noted by Mr Moobwe, the price would also give an opportunity for the FRA to also mop up the maize on the market with farmers having the commodity in stock.

He said a number of farmers would be happy to sell their maize at a good price so that they can make meaningful profit.

With many players – private sector – out there buying maize, the FRA cannot afford to behave as though it is the only interest party in the marketing chain.

The FRA must maintain its position of being the buyer of last resort for farmers, particularly those in remote areas who actually hold the key to the country being food secure.

It has an advantage in that it has a presence throughout the country.

Mr Chamatete said all FRA main holding depots countrywide were open, and ready to receive maize that met acceptable quality and standards as per law required.

“The agency is also buying non-genetically modified white maize on the Zambia Commodity Exchange (ZAMACE) platform,” he said.

FRA has appealed to Zambians and organisations with maize to sell to the agency as one of the measures to deal with the drought that put the country’s food security at risk.

“Any individual or organisation with white maize can deliver the commodity to the nearest FRA main holding depot countrywide and payment will be made within the shortest possible time upon processing of documentation,” Mr Chamatete said in a statement.

That FRA has committed itself to making prompt payments to farmers with minimum delay should also encourage farmers to sell the organisation their maize.

One of the advantages that brief-case buyers took advantage of was their ability to make prompt payments for maize purchases even when their price was low.

With the country experiencing drought and unsure of having a healthy maize harvest, the onus is on FRA to ensure that it buys all the maize on the market.

It appears to be on the right tack so far.


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