Debt of K200 million owed by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to transporters has crippled maize haulage in parts of Zambia, raising concerns about securing the country’s grain reserve before the rain starts.
FRA also owes farmers K370 million for the maize it has so far bought.
“I can assure farmers and transporters that they will be paid this month, once the Ministry of Finance releases the funds,” said Chola Kafwabulula, FRA Executive Director.
Luapula and North-Western provinces already recorded rainfall of between 1mm and 3mm, while the Zambia Meteorological Department (ZMD) advised farmers to protect their harvest against possible rain damage.
According to transporters interviewed by Africanfarming.com, the delay in payments makes it hard for them to ferry maize from remote depots.
“We need the money to buy fuel, service the vehicles and pay drivers,” said a Lusaka transporter who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Another said his vehicles are stuck at various locations, while he tries to secure alternative funds.
“I have a fleet of eight trucks that have not been able to ferry maize from various depots because we ran out of money,” he said.
The Food Reserve Agency (FRA) wants to buy 500 000 tons of maize for national strategic reserves this year.