The Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) President Jervis Zimba has cautioned against exploitation of small-scale farmers during the next marketing season when the newly introduced liberalised pricing of maize comes into effect.
“Farmers must be aware. They must not sell their crops at a lower price or exchange it for second-hand clothes,” said Zimba.
The Zambian Government, through the Food Reserve Agency (FRA), last season bought a 50kg bag of grain at K85 on credit while private grain traders pegged theirs at K105 and above and paid on the spot.
This distortion placed the farmers between the choice of waiting for payments from the FRA and immediate cash from grain traders, with the latter proving much more attractive. This scenarion prompted President Lungu to announce that government would in the 2017 marketing season allow market forces to determine the price of maize to encourage productivity.
Zimba reiterated that the decision by government to introduce a liberalised marketing system for grain would bring about competition among the buyers and ultimately benefit the farmer. “Agriculture is the only sector where you get income once a year, so farmers should make the most of it,” he said.
He encouraged diversification into other high-value crops such as soybeans, sunflower, and groundnuts to take advantage of the policies government had put in place to make agriculture the driving force of Zambia’s economic growth.