By JAMES KUNDA –
THE Food Reserve Agency (FRA) still owes farmers in excess of K600 million for the one million tonnes of maize it procured during the 2014/2015 crop marketing season.
Agriculture and Livestock Minister Wylbur Simuusa said in an interview yesterday that the agency had only settled K366 million of the K1 billion it owed the farmers who supplied maize in the marketing season ended October 7, 2014.
Mr Simuusa said the delayed payments resulted from a case of supply outstripping demand as the FRA procured double the target of the commodity for the national grain reserves.
The minister, however, assured that FRA would settle the balance before the onset of the next farming season as Government through the Ministry of Finance was doing all that it could to make the funds available.
“The latest information I have is that FRA has paid K366 million of the debt owed to farmers but Government is working round the clock to ensure that the balance is settled before the onset of the planting season.
“This year, the crop procured by FRA outstripped the demand of national strategic stock and this is why there has been this payment deficit,” he said.
Mr Simuusa said Government was protecting the welfare of farmers by offering a more lucrative price than private buyers who were allegedly offering K60 for a 50 kilogramme bag of maize.