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‘Delays by FRA force farmers to deal with ‘briefcase’ buyers’

From CHAMBO NG’UNI in Luano
DELAYS by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to pay farmers for maize supplied to the agency have forced some of them to sell the commodity at K50 to briefcase buyers.
Government has offered K65 per 50 kilogramme bag of  maize.
Chipepo Ngosa, an affected farmer, said most farmers who delivered the commodity at Luwell depot in Chief Shaibela’s area are disappointed over delays by the agency to secure payments.
Mr Ngosa said in an interview that the agency has further run out of grain storage bags
“There are no empty bags and once available, they easily run out. The other challenge is that the payment schedule is slow,” Mr Ngosa said.
He said he supplied 1,683 bags of maize at the depot in June, this year, but has not been paid.
Mr Ngosa said farmers are forced to sell the commodity cheaply to briefcase buyers to sustain their living.
He said the agency should consider paying farmers promptly to enable them adequately prepare for the next farming season.
“A number of farmers are complaining because it will be difficult for them to buy farming inputs for the next farming season due to delays in receiving payments from FRA,” he said.
Another farmer, Martin Mutale, said the agency is subjecting farmers to poverty due to non-payment of dues.
Mr Mutale said delayed payments will have a negative impact on production in the next farming season.
“Because of what is happening, we are not able to buy inputs for the next season in time,” he lamented.
And at Old Mkushi depot, the situation is not different as farmers have lamented delayed payments and lack of grain storage bags.
Godfrey Mulenga, who spoke on behalf of other farmers, said lack of grain storage bags is the biggest challenge.
“The problem here is that there is lack of sacks for us to pack our maize. And most of us have not been paid for the maize we have supplied to the agency,” he said.
But Mkushi district commissioner Luke Mwamba said Mkushi and Luano districts ran out of grain bags  as the agency has surpassed the target.
Mr Mwamba said on Tuesday, the agency supplied 60,000 empty grain bags which were shared between the two districts.
He, however, appealed for patience among farmers who have supplied maize to the agency stating that they will soon receive their payment.

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