Editor's Comment

Millers deserve praise, support


THAT the Millers Association of Zambia has pegged its purchasing price of maize from farmers at K95 for a 50kg bag is commendable and the way to go if farmers are to be encouraged to produce more.
At the beginning of the 2017/2018 marketing season, the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) pegged its price for purchase of maize at K65 per 50kg bag and later on increased the offer to K70.
The price offered by the FRA is just indicative and should not be seen as the ceiling price at which maize can be bought from farmers. Actually FRA is just one of the players on the maize market.
However, in the past, we have seen a trend where some players, including millers, have pegged their price for purchase of maize lower than that of FRA.
This has unfortunately disadvantaged farmers who have ended up being duped out of their hard-earned produce.
Given that FRA is mandated to buy only 500,000 metric tonnes of maize, many farmers have had no choice but to sell their grain to exploitative private business people.
This is why the decision by the Millers Association of Zambia is commendable. The offer of K95 per 50kg bag is much more appealing.
At first MAZ was offering farmers between K85 and K90 but after realising farmers are still holding back their maize, the association decided to increase the offer price to K95.
This is what is expected in a free market economy. Maize buyers are not supposed to restrict themselves to the price set by FRA.
Farmers too should not think that the buyers are doing them a favour. They (farmers) have every right to peg their own prices because they are the ones who know the costs of production.
It is good that while the marketing season seemed to have started on a low note, certainly things are brightening up.
As MAZ has so far only bought 20 percent of the targeted quantities of maize, the farmers are in better stead to get better prices.
Given the challenges that farmers in far-flung rural areas face to transport their produce to the market, MAZ, as is the case for FRA, will do well to follow them to their respective areas.
Farmers should also work through co-operatives to sell their produce other than working as individuals.
In this way they can find better markets and negotiate better prices for their produce, collectively.
Challenges and costs of transporting their produce to the marketplace can also be significantly reduced if they work through co-operatives.
Given the competitive price that MAZ is offering the farmers, FRA certainly needs to re-strategise on how they are going to meet their target.
According Zambia National Farmers Union, it is not certain if FRA will meet its target of 500,000 metric tonnes.
Whatever the situation, FRA has a responsibility to ensure it secures the country’s food basket by buying enough maize before it is wiped off the market by MAZ and other private buyers.
FRA should therefore target farmers in the far-flung rural areas where transportation challenges are more acute.
FRA should consider places which private buyers would shun due to transport implications.
Other market players will do well to ensure that the maize price remains competitive to encourage farmers to produce more.
Given the cost of producing maize, stemming from labour, inputs and equipment, farmers need to get a return on their investment.
It is only through good pricing that farmers will earn enough to improve their living standards and invest in new technologies for increased production.

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