There is growing concern that rain will soak more than 80 000 tons of maize, while a payment stand-off between transporters and the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) continues.
The FRA owes transporters K200 million. They have since parked their trucks, demanding payment.
“We are particularly troubled by reports of transporters abandoning the ferrying of maize, especially in remote parts of Zambia. An urgent solution needs to be found,” said Jervis Zimba, President of the Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU).
Other stakeholders, including the stated-owned Times of Zambia, weighed in on the looming crisis, saying “government should pay off these arrears in time to allow the transporters to ferry the maize to secure storage facilities and prevent the crop from going to waste”.
FRA Executive Director Chola Kafwabulula said time is of the essence to secure the money and pay transporters. “We are also concerned about the situation and we might be running out of time.”
This week, Finance Minister Felix Mutati said the treasury released money to cover the cost of FRA’s purchase of a targeted 500 000 tons of maize.
Linked to that is a directive from President Edgar Lungu to line ministries to pay farmers and transporters. He ordered them to ensure the smooth roll-out of the 2017/’18 Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) under a fully-fledged electronic voucher payment system.