The Food Reserve Agency (FRA) will start buying maize on September 1, but the agency is yet to announce the price it will offer. Government has meanwhile cautioned farmers against so-called panic sales.
Addressing the parliamentary committee on agriculture, fisheries and livestock, FRA Executive Director Chola Kafwabulula said the September date was set to allow the moisture content of the grain to reduce to 12.5%.
Kafwabulula also said the agency hopes to limit damage to only 1% during this year’s season. According to him, previous damage was as high as 20%.
“FRA will not buy any maize before the grain moisture content is reduced to 12.5%. This is to limit damage to the purchased crop,” he said.
Zambia this year has a bumper harvest of 3.6 million tons of maize, a 25% increase from last year.
The FRA is expected to buy an estimated 500 000 tons for strategic reserves, but the limited purchases by FRA have caused panic among farmers who rely on the agency to buy their crop.
Chiefs and other stakeholders urged the agency to announce its offer price to halt the alleged exploitation by private grain buyers who have besieged rural farmers. Currently prices vary between K50 and K120 for 50kg.
Meanwhile, chief government spokesperson Kampamba Mulenga urged farmers to keep cool heads when selling their crop.
“Farmers should not rush to sell their maize to private buyers but must engage the ministry of agriculture so that it helps them find buyers with better prices,” Kampamba said.
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