Zambia’s umbrella body for smallholder farmers, the National Union of Small-scale Farmers of Zambia (NUSFAZ), says the nation must brace for a maize shortage in the coming year.
NUSFAZ Director General Frank Kayula told local media that disappointing returns on last year’s production had demotivated most farmers from planting maize.
“The prices offered for maize have disappointed farmers, and we risk a shortage next year as most producers have vowed not to grow the crop,” he said.
Zambia harvested 3.6 million tons of maize this year, a 25% increase from last year. The bulk of the production was driven by small-scale farmers, whose number was estimated at 1.6 million.
However, maize producers, mostly small-scale farmers, faced a tumultuous marketing season with prices plummeting as low as K35/50 kg from a previous high K85/50 kg.
High maize production in the southern African region compounded their predicament, leaving them with the only option of selling to the state-owned grain buying agency, the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) at K60/50kg.
This option, too, had challenges as the FRA aimed to buy just above 500 000 tons for strategic national reserves while most of the producers scrambled to sell their grain as the rainy season approached.
The Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) has already sounded alarm bells about a possible drop in maize production following a disappointing year for farmers.
Kayula said government should consider allocating more land to state-led institutions such as the Zambia National Service (ZNS) to fill the gap that would be left by smallholder farmers.
Also read: ZNFU predicts dip in maize production