Private buyers have invaded rural districts and are buying maize from desperate smallholder farmers for as low as K50 per 50kg bag.
The so-called “briefcase” buyers want to cash in before government sets the floor price for the crop whose marketing season opens in a fortnight.
“Farmers are desperate and are selling their maize cheaply to raise money for school fees,’ said Christopher Chibuya, Luano’s district commissioner in Central Province.
According to Chibuye, private maize buyers from Copperbelt and Lusaka Provinces established buying “depots” at various points within the district.
Last week the Zambian government lifted a ban on maize exports, after a crop forecast showed the country will have a bumper harvest of 3.6 million tons.
Despite the lifting of the ban, farmers are still upset about the 10% export levy and added council levies.
Random interviews show that the practice by private buyers is widespread in Eastern, Northern and Muchinga Provinces. This has led to fears that private buyers will buy most of the crop before the marketing season opens.
Ministry of Agriculture officials say they received reports of private maize buyers taking advantage of rural producers.
“Our advice to farmers is to be patient. Don’t sell your maize to private dealers,” one official said.