Opposition leaders have urged government to intervene in maize marketing. They say leaving it to free market forces will harm smallholder farmers.
The crop marketing season opened on June 1, but there has been no word from government on the floor price the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) will pay for maize.
“Government must not leave agricultural marketing to the whims of free markets alone as it will harm farmers, especially in rural areas,” said Highvie Hamududu of the Party for National Unity (PNU).
Hamududu said government must put measures in place to protect peasant farmers from exploitation.
The vacuum left by government participation has left farmers vulnerable to private grain buyers who are buying maize for around K50/50kg.
Hamududu said his own investigation showed that farmers are being paid as little as K40/50kg.
“This is killing the rural economy and deepening poverty,” he said.
Council levies and a 10% export duty pushing up the price of local grain are worsening the situation. It makes grain less competitive on the regional market.
Rainbow Party president Wynter Kabimba also warned that the export duty and levies will result in smuggling of the commodity.
Zambia expected to harvest 3.6 million tons of maize this year, a 25% increase from last year. Other countries in the region such as South Africa have also registered bumper harvests. This will lead to a decline in the maize price from US$380 to around US$297 per ton.