ZAMBIA is this year expecting another maize bumper harvest and this is very important for the country’s food security.
According to a recent preliminary crop survey undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, the country expects to reap at least three million tonnes which is a significant increase from last season’s 2.5 million tonnes.
This is an encouraging development, especially that most areas in the country have recorded an increase in maize production of not less than 70 per cent this year.
The development shows that Government is on the right track in as far as managing the agriculture sector is concerned and this is commendable.
These results culminate from a good rainfall pattern coupled with favourable climatic conditions which are conducive for large scale farming.
This will enable the Government to procure more maize for strategic reserves having secured more than 400,000 tonnes from last year’s harvest which the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) has been selling to millers around the country.
It is a fact that the bumper harvest will help to stabilise rising mealie meal prices which have since become out of reach to an ordinary citizen.
But while the country can celebrate the upcoming bumper harvest, there is an urgent need for the Government to quicken its pace in the construction of maize storage facilities to avoid food wastage which has gone unabated over the years.
Food wastage which has occurred in far flung places such as Zambezi East and West, Shangombo and Muyombe only to mention but a few areas, is appalling to say the least and needs to be curbed.
This is all because of lack of enough food storage capacity and it will continue as long as there is no significant investments in grain Silos and Sheds.
The country needs to know how far the construction of 98 maize storage sheds started sometime back has gone and when these will be commissioned.
With grain tonnage purchases rising from 623,700 tonnes in 2004 before the amendment of the 2005 FRA Act, to 1,751,660 tonnes in the 2011/12 season, storage capacity has not increased significantly and that is why there is an urgent need to scale it up.
Current storage capacity covered by FRA is slightly over 750,000 tonnes which falls short of the storage requirement of more than two million tonnes.
Encouraging more food production will not go well without matching it with enough storage facilities.
The challenge for the Government is to ensure that there are adequate maize storage facilities for this year’s bumper harvest.
The trend by FRA to store maize in the open either on concrete slabs or wooden logs covered with tarpaulins, will result in considerable damage to food and the idea of bringing mealie meal prices down will for the meantime be far fetched.