NANCY SIAME and CHOMBA MUSIKA, Lusaka
PRESIDENT Lungu says buyers and sellers of maize grain should both benefit from a bargaining process to determine the price.
And the Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) has urged millers to consider buying maize at a higher price than the K60 per 50-kilogramme bag announced by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA).
President Lungu has also said he will not interfere in the setting of the maize price because it has been determined by market fundamentals.
“It’s a market, when you go to the market there should be a willing buyer and a willing seller. I think a consensus will have to be achieved somehow,” he said.
President Lungu was responding to questions from journalists at City Airport in Lusaka yesterday shortly before his departure for Luapula Province.
The head of State said he does not want to politicise maize production because he believes it should be economical and those involved should be rewarded.
“Those who produce maize know what they have put in and what they want and those buying know what they are offering,” he said.
Asked if last year’s price of K85 per 50kg bag of maize was a political gimmick to win him the general elections, President Lungu said he fixed last year’s maize price because he thought that was what was good for the market.
“I don’t want to interfere for now, there should be a bargaining process so that the buyer and seller are willing to exchange commodities, and no one should be exploited,” President Lungu said.
On Tuesday, the Food Reserve Agency announced that it will be buying a 50kg bag of maize at K60 so that it does not disadvantage private buyers.
Meanwhile, MAZ president Andrew Chintala has urged millers to consider buying maize at a higher price than the FRA price of K60 per 50kg bag.
FRA on Tuesday announced a reduced price at which it will buy maize at K60 per 50 kilogramme bag from last year’s K85 so that private buyers are not disadvantaged.
Mr Chintala said in an interview yesterday that millers should pay farmers closer or more than the K60 that FRA has offered to buy the grain.
He said farmers anticipated a better price but urged them to consider selling part of their produce to millers who are in need of 1.8 million metric tonnes of maize.
“Farmers expected FRA to buy maize at last year’s K85 but let us [millers] support the farmers and pay them a cost-reflective price for their maize. Let’s pay farmers closer or more than what the FRA is offering to buy maize,” Mr Chintala said.
He said the reduced price is in tandem with the increased maize yields in the region which has led to reduced demand for the grain compared to last season.
“This year is unique, most countries in the region had a fair yield and the price of maize cannot be high as last year’s because the demand [for maize] is not as high as last year. Moreover, FRA has limited 500,000 metric tonnes which it will buy for storage, so farmers should take advantage of millers who need 1.8 million metric tonnes,” Mr Chintala said.