The Food Reserve Agency (FRA) has exported about 290,000 tonnes of maize valued at $48.2mn to neighboring countries as at May 31, 2011.
About 71 per cent of these exports were to Zimbabwe while the remainder was shared among the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Namibia and Mozambique.
Agency chairman Brigadier General Maybin Sikweti, said in a statement that there is need to step up the export initiatives, especially that the marketable surplus has gone up and storage space is limited.
FRA has also sold about 168,000 tonnes of maize worth $27.9mn to the local millers. In addition, about 2,600 tonnes have been sold to local communities, while 18,600 tonnes have been released to the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit of the Vice President’s Office for relief distribution purposes.
“Furthermore, 15,000 tonnes was donated by Government to the World Food Programme (WFP) under the School Feeding Programme,” the statement added.
The Agency has in its custody about 600,000 tonnes of which 300,000 is for strategic reserves and the rest is available for sale.
According to the Crop Forecast Report released on May 16, 2011 by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MACO), production of maize, soya-beans, cotton, irish potatoes and tobacco has increased compared to last year.
Zambia has yet again produced the highest quantity of maize ever recorded in the country’s history. In 2010, production was about 2.8mn tonnes while this year maize production has risen by 8 per cent reaching slightly over three million tonnes.
Last year’s marketable surplus of maize of about one million tonnes was reported and this year the marketable surplus is estimated to be 1.66mn tones.
In 2010, FRA purchased about 883,000 tonnes, representing about 88 per cent of the reported marketable surplus. This year, FRA intends to purchase at least 1.3 tonnes of maize valued at ZMK1.69tn.
“In addition, FRA will also purchase paddy rice. Last year FRA purchased about 3,600 tonnes and this year the target is 5,000 tonnes valued at ZMK7.5bn.
The price of maize will be maintained at ZMK65,000 per 50kg bag (about $273 per tonne). The price of paddy rice will be ZMK60,000 per 40kg bag (about $315 per tonne).
These prices were arrived at after carefully analyzing the cost of production and also after taking into account the prevailing local and regional market conditions. Farmers have been mandated to use these prices as they trade with the private sector.
The Agency has set up buying points in all the 74 districts of the country. On average 15 satellite depots per district will be opened to ensure that the farmers have access to the market.
With a view to address perennial limited storage space, the Agency, as a short-term measure, is collaborating with Government to build 98 slabs in strategic locations in the country. The total capacity of the slabs will be 450,000 tonnes. Additionally, the Agency will continue rehabilitating existing storage facilities and rent private storage facilities.
The medium and long-term measures include rehabilitation of silos and building of more sheds, preferable through public- private partnerships (PPPs).
This year’s FRA Crop Marketing Programme opened on June 1 and will close on October 31, 2011. The programme is tailored to provide market access to small-scale farmers. Financing of the programme will be through Government grants and transfers, crop sales and commercial borrowing.
In order to reduce delays in paying farmers which have characterised previous programmes, the Agency will use multiple financial institutions available in each district and also pay directly to farmers through their personal bank accounts.
By Nawa Mutumweno