Maize prices have jumped from K60/50kg to K75/50kg in parts of northern Zambia where private buyers are gradually tapping into the Great Lakes Region.
Shipping agents say since September, exports by private buyers surged amidst the marginal grain price increase.
“We have an average of four ships loading maize every week, destined for the Great Lakes Region,” said Theo Mumba, a shipping agent at Mpulungu Harbour.
The Great Lakes Region consists of Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Republic of Congo, Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan, Kenya and Sudan.
Zambian trade volumes to the region increased from 11 000 tons to more than 15 000 tons every month, after a decision to lift the maize export ban.
However, exports are slow due to logistical challenges and the recent strong performance of the kwacha which made Zambian grain uncompetitive.
According to the Food Reserve Agency, it could this year only buy 55,000 tons in Northern Province, compared to last year’s 127 000 tons.
FRA Executive Director Chola Kafwabulula said his agency had to close some of its depots in Northern Province because of stiff competition from private buyers.
“Private buyers are giving farmers a good deal as they are supplementing FRA’s efforts to buy surplus maize,” he said.
The FRA wants to buy 500 000 tons of this year’s maize harvest of 3.6 million tons.
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