Editor's Comment

Paying farmers on delivery way to go

MAIZE

THE decision taken by the Food Reserve Agency to pay all farmers who will sell maize to the agency (FRA) this marketing season upon delivering the grain is indeed progressive and must be commended by all well-meaning Zambians.
“This year, we will be paying farmers’ cash on delivery. Already, we have K74.4 million available, and more money is being sourced to ensure that farmers get paid upon delivering their maize,” said FRA board chairperson Joe Simachela.
This is indeed good news as it will motivate farmers to produce more.
In the past, FRA took long to pay farmers who supplied maize to the agency. This affected farmers as they could not plan for their next farming season in time.
Due to the delay in payments, some farmers were forced to borrow against what they were owed by FRA to meet immediate pressing needs. This meant that by the time they were getting their money from FRA, it was all spent through debt.
For those farmers who could not endure long waits for their money, they opted to sell their produce to private buyers who offered instant cash.
This disadvantaged FRA which struggled to meet the seasonal maize purchase.
For instance, last farming season, FRA failed to meet the 500,000 tonnes targeted.
The situation was worsened by the price that FRA was offering against private buyers. Last marketing season, the FRA was buying maize at K70 while private buyers were offering around K100.
This lured many farmers to offload their produce to private buyers shunning FRA.
This situation, if allowed to continue, has potential to jeopardise the country’s food security.
As a country, there is need to ensure that there is enough stock in reserves in readiness for the rainy day.
Currently, some parts of the country are affected by hunger due to the drought experienced in the last rainy season.
Government is now relying on maize in the reserves to provide relief food to affected areas.
The need to keep the reserves well-replenished cannot, therefore, be overemphasized.
It is, therefore, commendable that FRA is this marketing season FRA is not only paying farmers upon delivery but offering a competitive price.
FRA recently announced that the floor price for this marketing season is K110 per 50kg bag of maize.
This will certainly motivate farmers to sell their maize to the agency thereby contributing to food security.
At the price FRA is offering coupled with instant payment, we expect the agency to meet this year’s maize purchase target of 300,000 metric tonnes of maize without challenges.
The decision taken by Government to increase the price of maize from K70 last farming season to K110 and to pay farmers upon delivery is evidence that it is concerned about the plight of farmers as well as food security.
It is also good that Government is leading by example on giving farmers value for their money though under a very tight budget due to many competing needs.
It is hoped that farmers will not be over-excited by the good price and instant payment and forget to plan.
Given that farmers get an income annually, it is important to ensure that they devise a good financial plan.
Farmers, as opposed to waiting for the marketing season, to have an income they can use the money realised from to invest in other areas as well.
Farmers should also remember that there is always the next farming season which requires investment in inputs and other farming necessities.
This entails that farmers need to put aside some money for farming activities the next season.
It is saddening that some farmers struggle to contribute K400 towards the highly subsidized e-voucher pack.
Now that farmers will be paid upon delivery of their produce, they have no excuse for failing to plan for their next farming season.
It is also hoped that with such incentives, farmers will be motivated to not only produce more but diversify into other crops as well.

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