FRA support to other government programmes –Part 2

ANOTHER government programme that the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) supports is the Home Grown School Meals (HGSM) feeding programme. The agency has been supporting the Ministry of Education in implementing the HGSM programme, which is an initiative aimed at improving school attendance and performance by learners as well as their nutrition. The programme is aimed at supporting 2,618 rural-based schools, targeting over one million learners in 39 districts (MoGE, 2019). The agency has been supporting this programme by releasing adequate quantities of grain.
Further, it has been conducting a social programme known as community sales. This involves the sale of subsidised white maize to vulnerable citizens affected by drought, floods, or emergency situations through offices of district commissioners, Ministry of Community Development and Social Services and the local leadership. Beneficiaries of this programme are registered by district commissioners working in collaboration with traditional leadership and they access the commodity from any nearest FRA depot at a very minimal cost. During this programme, only a 50-kilogramme bag of white maize is issued per household per month. This is done as a control measure against resale or beneficiaries accessing more than what could be enough for their household consumption and risking some grain being used for other purposes or wasted.
This programme also benefits local institutions such as schools, orphanages and hospices. The national strategic food reserve, as required by law, is aimed at ensuring a reliable supply of designated agricultural commodities for the country, among others. Such commodities include white maize, paddy rice, soya beans or any other crop that may be designated as such. In efforts aimed at fulfilling this legal obligation, the agency has been running a millers programme aimed at mitigating maize shortages and stabilising mealie meal prices which are usually caused by maize shortages on the local market. To date, this programme has been managed successfully as maize shortages and mealie meal prices have been adequately controlled. It should be noted that maize shortages at times are artificial and the agency in the past had no way of verifying maize stocks held by other stakeholders to ascertain how much maize the country had in total. However, the Food Reserve Act No. 6 of 2020 has introduced a provision where this matter has been addressed. Section 20 of the Food Reserve Act No. 6 of 2020 states that: “The minister shall for purposes of the Act cause the collection of data for purposes of national food security; cause the inspection and verification of stock levels of designated agricultural commodities.”
The implication is that the role of the minister of Agriculture in the management of national strategic food reserves, among others, is to cause the inspection and verification of stock levels of designated agricultural commodities held in the country by various players. The Act further states that obstructing or refusing to provide information to inspectors is a criminal offence which attracts a maximum penalty of a five-year jail term or a fine amounting to K150,000 with a possibility of being made to pay the fine and being sent to prison. In conclusion, the programmes highlighted above are among the major circumstances under which the agency is required to release stock from the national strategic food reserves. No individual can walk into the agency offices anywhere, anytime and buy any designated crop due to the fact that the grain stored is only meant for relief, emergency and social programmes being conducted by FRA and other government institutions. The author is public relations coordinator at FRA. For comments/enquiries, email to fra@fra.org.zm/jchipandwe@fra.org.zm or contact the executive director, FRA, P.O. Box 34054, Plot No. 7419, Light Industrial Area, Manda Road, Lusaka, Tel: +260 211 286097/286106/0965 286097/0978 774336 or visit www.fra.org.zm, Twitter: Food Reserve Agency (FRA) @Frafood, Facebook page: Food Reserve Agency.

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