An array of stakeholders, including the Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU), slated a proposal by the Zambian government to commercialise the Food Reserve Agency (FRA).
The Zambian Ministry of Agriculture says that FRA can become commercially viable by raising revenue through grain exports. But ZNFU, Grain Traders Association (GTAZ), National Union of Small-scale Farmers of Zambia (NUSFAZ), the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) are concerned about the move.
“Such a significant expansion of the FRA’s role in grain marketing will severely undermine the development of Zambia’s agricultural sector, affecting both smallholder farmers and consumers,” read a statement released in Lusaka by the parties.
“We have yet to come across a country that has successfully implemented the commercialisation of their food reserve agency, and our concern is that expanding the role of FRA would further burden the treasury and tax payers.”
Stakeholders say a significant consequence of transforming the FRA into a commercial entity would be the loss of private investment in agriculture and constrained opportunities for economic diversification.
The pushback also centred around effectively resurrection of the National Agricultural Marketing Board (NAMBOARD) that had served as a national grain marketing arm in the second republic of the socialist administration of Dr Kenneth Kaunda.
There has already been a huge outcry from producers this year as the FRA reduced the buying price for maize from the last K85/50 to K60/50 and set soyabean at K130/50kg from K250/50kg. The agency cited escalating operational costs to justify the prices.
Opponents to the FRA’s expanded role say the agency must rather cut operations to address its current financial unsustainability.