President Edgar Lungu says plans are underway to make the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) the sole grain export agency in Zambia.
“Once the law was changed, the FRA would become a procuring agency on behalf of other countries that wanted to buy maize in Zambia, and it will use the upfront payment to pay farmers that supplied the commodity on a cash basis,” Lungu said on Monday during his tour of Isoka, Muchinga province.
The president said making FRA the sole grain export agency will accelerate the process of buying maize from local farmers, as the agency will have readily available cash to pay for the crop.
At the moment Zambia is faced with a possible over-supply of maize stock and deflated prices, due to an existing moratorium on the export of the grain.
But industry sources who spoke on condition of anonymity told africanfarming.com the latest move by government contradicted the liberal marketing regime they promised to implement in the 2017/2018 season.
“In short, FRA will still continue to determine the price at which it will buy the crop from farmers. And this has been a source of discontent as farmers felt they were not getting a fair return on their produce,” one source said.
The view is echoed by the Indaba Agricultural Policy and Research Institute (IAPRI), which argues for government to completely withdraw from maize marketing.
“In the mixed policy environment, the government’s co-existence with the private sector is unfairly biased as it is the larger competitor. This hinders the development of the agricultural sector,” the IAPRI’s latest policy advisor paper reads.