THE decision by some farmers in certain parts of the country to sell their maize before opening of the marketing season is worrying especially that in some cases, ‘briefcase buyers’ are paying as little as K50 for a 50 kilogramme bag.
This is coming at a time when the Government has not even pegged the price at which it will buy maize for strategic reserves through the Food Reserve Agency (FRA).
Further, it should be borne in mind that these are times of uncertainty and no effort should be spared in ensuring that food security is guaranteed.
This is especially important now when countries around the world are faced with a combination of climate change-related challenges which have negatively impacted agriculture production.
On top of that, the novel coronavirus pandemic has led to lockdowns, restrictions and production cuts.
In this regard, concerns raised by the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) over farmers selling their maize at give- away prices of between per bag are justified.
The farmers are not only threatening household food security, but they are also endangering national food security.
Currently, Government is distributing relief food to areas in Zambia where hunger is looming either because of poor rainfall in the last rainy season, or because of floods which have washed away livelihoods of entire communities.
The United Nations has warned that the world is facing multiple famines of ‘biblical proportions’ in just a matter of months.
It has warned that the coronavirus pandemic will push at least 130 million people to the brink of starvation, mostly in Africa where countries will be affected by the impact of lockdowns and the
impending global economic recession.
Therefore, there is need for Zambia to institute measures aimed at safeguarding this season’s maize harvest.
It is not a secret that Government spent a lot of money in subsidizing maize production and there is need to ensure that the crop is not allowed to fall in the hands of briefcase buyers, some of whom could be from neighbouring countries.
If this maize is lost, the FRA maynot manage to secure the one million tonnes of maize it is targeting to buy during the marketing season that opens next month.
Therefore, we agree with ZNFU that Government, through Agriculture Minister Michael Katambo, should put in place measures aimed at arresting the situation.
Government efforts through the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP), which are well intended to lift the majority of rural farmers out of poverty and improve food production at household and national level, must not be allowed to go to waste.
We urge all stakeholders to pool their efforts in sensitising farmers to realise that in as much as Zambia is a liberalised economy where farmers are at liberty to sell to a buyer of their choice, care must be taken to serve the country’s interests before all else’s.