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Guard against exploitation, farmers urged

ZAMBIA National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) president Jervis Zimba has urged small-scale farmers to guard against exploitation during the next marketing season following President Lungu’s directive that Government will no longer dictate the price of maize.
Government, through Food Reserve Agency (FRA), last season bought a 50kg bag at K85 on credit while most private grain traders pegged their bid price of a similar quantity at over K105 spot cash.
This development prompted President Lungu to announce that Government will in 2017 allow farmers and market forces determine the price of maize to encourage productivity among the farmers.
“We are advising farmers to avoid being exploited and not sell their crops at a lower price or exchange it with second-hand clothes [salaula].
“Agriculture is the only sector where you get income once a year, so our farmers should ensure that they treat it as a business, and also they should diversify into other high-value crops such as soybeans, sunflower, groundnuts, among other crops,” he said in an interview recently.
Mr Zimba said the decision to allow farmers and market forces determine the price of maize will also bring about competition among the buyers and farmers will benefit from their produce.
“We just hope the directive will be effective and there will be no change of policy on the part of Government,” he said.
But in his 2017 budget speech, Minister of Finance Felix Mutati said policy consistency is important in the agriculture sector as it facilitates stability and predictable access to wider markets.
Mr Mutati said Government will stop regulating agricultural markets through policies such as export bans and setting of prices since they have the effect of generating uncertainty that negatively affects production.