KABANDA CHULU, Lusaka
ZAMBIA National Farmers Union (ZNFU) president Jervis Zimba has advised 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.
Last season, Government through the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) bought a 50kg bag at K85 on credit while most private grain traders and millers pegged their bid price of a similar quantity at over K105 spot cash.
This development prompted President Lungu to announce that Government will this year allow farmers and market forces to 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,” Mr Zimba said in an interview recently.
Mr Zimba said the decision to allow farmers and market forces to determine the price of maize will bring about competition among the buyers, thus allowing farmers to 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.
In this year’s 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.
The FRA has announced intentions to buy 500,000 tonnes of maize and 2,100 tonnes of paddy rice this marketing season, which will start on June 1, 2017.