Editor's Comment

Construction of grain silos welcome

THE construction of more grain silos in various parts of the country is welcome as it will help reduce the wastage of
the maize harvested from the 2013/2014 farming season.
There is an urgent need to end the perennial reports of hundreds of tonnes of maize rotting or being destroyed by pests such as weevils.
The Food Reserve Agency (FRA) has even been announcing to the nation that it has destroyed
tonnes of maize because of the grain’s bad condition.
All this wastage has been a result of poor, or the absence of proper, storage facilities.
Maize is the staple food for majority Zambians, who consume it in form of its various products such as nshima, porridge, roasted cobs and many others.
It therefore remains the most important crop in Zambia.
The country has been recording impressive harvests in the last five years, which have been far beyond its annual national consumption levels.
The government has mandated FRA to buy 500,000 metric tonnes of the grain and stockpile it for emergencies.
This year the agency has already met its target, with hundreds of thousands of tonnes of the grain still in the hands of farmers who are looking for buyers.
Each year FRA has been buying part of the harvest from mainly small- and medium-scale farmers.
The challenge has been transportation of the maize from satellite depots to holding depots.
Some of the grain has remained marooned at satellite depots for months without being hauled to the holding depots.
As a result much of such maize has gone to waste at the satellite depots.
The distances between the facilities and poor state of feeder roads have been major factors fuelling the wastage of the staple food.
In some parts of the country even rice has suffered the same fate.
This is why everything possible should be done to ensure that there are enough storage facilities to secure the commodity.
We are happy that FRA has a vigorous programme aimed at scaling up the construction of silos countrywide.
This week the government signed a contract with a Chinese company for the construction of silos in three districts.
This will be funded with the support of the Export Import (Exim) Bank of China, which has provided finances in the sum of over US$100 million should the financing agreement between the two parties be sealed.
We urge the two parties to urgently conclude the deal so that the contractor can begin to work on the new silos.
The construction of the silos in Kaoma, Kalomo and Choma districts will certainly boost the morale of the farmers in these areas who will not be subjected to seeing their fruits of their hard work go to waste.
No one would be happy to see the maize they sold to FRA eaten by grain weevils, termites or exposed to bad weather.
The government has already successfully promoted maize farming in the country through the Farmer Input Support Programme, which has been targeting vulnerable but viable farmers mostly in rural areas.
The response from the citizens has been beyond all expectations.
However, there is still a lot to be done to improve marketing and storage.
Many farmers are still stuck with their maize because of the limited capacity by players in the private sector such as millers and breweries.
We are confident that these challenges are receiving serious attention from both the FRA and the relevant government ministries.
We implore the contractor, China MC Engineering Company Limited (CAMCE), to work expeditiously once the financing agreement has been sealed.
No grain should be allowed to go to waste.

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