By CHUSA SICHONE –
THE Food Reserve Agency (FRA) is close to reaching the targeted 500,000 tonnes of maize it is expected to buy during this marketing season.
The Agency has so far bought over 200,000 tonnes of the commodity within three weeks.
FRA executive director Chola Kafwabulula told journalists when he toured three satellite depots in Chongwe District on Tuesday that the agency had bought 223,412 tonnes (about 4.4 million bags) of maize as at Thursday last week.
“We update these figures on a weekly basis, so every Friday we receive new figures from the regions. So that figure that I am giving you (223,412 metric tonnes) is at Thursday last week but reported on Friday,” Mr Kafwabulula said.
“The 223,412 metric tonnes that is in stock we have bought within a space of two to three weeks only. Now if you can buy that kind of maize between two to three weeks, that is a lot of maize because already we are almost 50 per cent of our target, which is 500,000 metric tones.”
Mr Kafwabulula said FRA started buying maize late owing to the high moisture content and that he would be in a position to have the latest figures on Friday this week as the crop marketing exercise is still underway countrywide.
From the 223,412 tonnes, Mr Kafwabulula said Eastern Province recorded the highest amount of maize bought at 47,277 tonnes, seconded by Northern Province with 38,066 tonnes while Western Province was the lowest with 3,886 tonnes of maize bought so far.
Mr Kafwabulula said the FRA hoped to disburse more money to buy maize countrywide this week as the Ministry of Finance had pledged to release more funds, which would be an addition to the K145 million FRA had so far disbursed countrywide.
He said gone were the days when farmers would wait for their payments, adding that currently, they were being paid within 14 days after delivery.
Mr Kafwabulula also reiterated FRA’s the desire to increase the storage capacity from 700,000 tonnes to 2,000,000 tonnes by 2018 in line with its long-term investment plan, starting with 117,000 tonnes in five provinces next month-end.
The provinces are Luapula, Northern, North-Western, Eastern and Muchinga but that the storage capacity on the Copperbelt Province (Mpongwe, Masaiti and Chingola) had already increased by 20,000 tonnes as of Sunday last week.
Mr Kafwabulula led officials from the FRA to Chongwe District on Tuesday to have an on-the-spot check of the maize purchase exercise at Kampekete, Chilyabale and Lwimba satellite depots.