The Zambian government has ordered the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to continue buying maize, after it emerged that thousands of rural farmers are stuck with their grain.
“The FRA will continue buying grain beyond the targeted 500 000 tons for strategic reserves to ensure farmers are not left stranded with their crop,” Vice President Inonge Wina said in parliament on Friday.
She reacted to queries from MP’s who received complaints from constituents that farmers have nowhere to sell their crop. The FRA stopped buying maize last week, after meeting its target for national food reserves.
The crop marketing season started in June and FRA offered to buy at K60 for a 50 kg bag of maize. The offer outraged farmers who said it is below production cost.
Protracted negotiations with the Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) ended in a stalemate, leading to a call by the union for farmers to hold back their crop until the price improved.
However, in the days before the crop marketing season ended, farmers rushed to sell their crop to the FRA. Escalating the sales was the onset of the rain season – most rural farmers have no storage facilities and relied on the FRA.