Editor's Comment

Increased floor price will empower farmers

FARMERS in a maize field.

GOVERNMENTS should not only listen to the people they preside over, but more importantly, must also grant them their wishes.
It is one wish to say we are a ‘listening government’ and quite another to do that which the people desire.
It is in the vein that Government should be commended for not only saying that it listens to what the people want, but also for actually taking action on what the various stakeholders desire.
A case in point is Government saying that it would improve the agriculture sector and empower farmers and following up this pledge by actually increasing the maize floor price from K75 to K85 per 50kg bag.
The increase will motivate the farmers and enhance national and household food security through increased maize production, especially by small-scale farmers.
This announcement in earnest by President Lungu will clear anxieties by farmers.
It will also give farmers impetus in their bargaining for better prices for their produce needed by millers and brewers.
With this announcement, Government has raised the bar and other buyers intending to join the purchasing of maize should as well meet farmers’ expectations.
Buyers from the private sector play a very important role because Food Reserve Agency (FRA) buys only what the country needs for its strategic reserves.
Besides, some farmers with pressing financial needs cannot wait for the FRA to start buying later in August.
The FRA will only enter the maize market once all the modalities for the 2016/2017 marketing season have been finalised, including ensuring that the maize reaches the acceptable moisture content of 12.5 percent.
Maize production for the 2015/2016 agricultural season is forecast to increase to 2,873,052 metric tonnes from 2,618,221 metric tonnes in the 2014/2015 season, an increase of 9.73 percent. The country has produced sufficient maize for both human consumption and industrial use and has recorded a maize surplus of 634,681 metric tonnes.
This is commendable and not by accident. This is as a direct result of prudent agriculture policies which have enabled Zambia to produce abundantly while most neighbouring countries are in critical shortages of the common staple food.
President Lungu’s timely announcement will save farmers from exploitation from other buyers other than FRA, which buys the staple crop for strategic reserves.
It is also commendable that this year’s maize marketing season will open in the first week of July.
This announcement will improve planning for farmers, especially those in the rural areas.
Notably, too, an ever increasing number of farmers, including those in rural areas, will now be able to deliver their produce to markets much quicker and at a lower cost. This is so because of the massive improvement of roads throughout the country.
This combination of improved price and improved roads should spur agriculture production not only in maize but in other crops, too.
In the past two marketing seasons, Government has answered the farmers’ cry by increasing the floor price of maize.
Last year, Government first announced the maize floor of K70 per 50kg bag of maize but President Lungu intervened and raised it to K75.
The increase brought joy to farmers because prior to President Lungu’s decision, the maize floor price had been static from 2009 at K65 per 50kg bag.
Farmers’ complaint then was that while the prices of commodities that they faced just like any other consumer had been rising, their incomes remained unchanged.
With these improvements now, farmers should certainly join the growing list of those who can testify that President Lungu is leading by walking the talk.

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