Zambian smallholder rice producers are in the deep throes of a market crisis, a survey by Africanfarming.com reveals. At the core of the crisis is the lack of market policies that linked farmers with major buyers. This leaves them vulnerable to so-called exploitative private buyers.
The market crisis is more evident in Luapula. “There is no market for rice here, and growers are desperately selling a 20kg container of rice at only K7,” said Martin Chilukwa, district commissioner of the newly created Lunga District.
The new district, an island on Lake Bangweulu, produces 500 tons of rice per year.
Chilukwa appealed to the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to set up a depot in Lunga to mitigate the situation which affects hundreds of farmers.
He said rice growers sometimes resorted to bartering their produce for soap, clothes and other household essentials.
“A ready market would greatly improve the livelihoods of these farmers,” he said.
Interviews with farmers in Western province, another rice producing area, showed farmers struggled to access lucrative markets. Private buyers are taking advantage of the situation by buying the rice cheaply from desperate farmers and re-selling at exorbitant prices in Lusaka and Copperbelt Province.
FRA will this marketing season buy rice in addition to maize, creating optimism for better prices among producers. The agency will buy a minimum of 500 000 tons of maize and 2 100 tons of paddy rice.