Saturday, June 12, 2010

‘Govt opened crop marketing season without adequate funding to FRA’

‘Govt opened crop marketing season without adequate funding to FRA’
By Chiwoyu Sinyangwe
Sat 12 June 2010, 04:00 CAT

THE Food Reserve Agency (FRA) has bought some skimpy quantities of maize, over a month after the government prematurely opened the crop marketing season when moisture content was still high and without adequate purchasing funding to the agency.

The government’s premature opening of the maize marketing season when the FRA is not ready to buy the crop due to lack of money and high moisture content has opened up small-scale farmers to unscrupulous buyers.

Over a month after agriculture minister Peter Daka launched the 2010 crop marketing season in Monze with an announcement that FRA would purchase a 50kg bag of maize at K65,000, the grain buyer of the last resort was yet to enter into the market.

FRA plans to purchase 300,000 tonnes of white maize from peasant farmers to keep in strategic reserves.

Owing to lack of FRA presence in the market, most ‘briefcase’ buyers of maize have taken over the markets, buying the commodity at between K25,000 and K35,000 per 50kg of maize depending on the proximity the source of the maize is to the buying point.

According to the crop purchase update, spokesperson Mwamba Siame said FRA has initiated the maize buying exercise in some districts in North Western Province.
Siame named Kabompo and Zambezi districts as the areas where FRA had started mopping the crop.

“The Agency wishes to report that crop purchases have been recorded in a few depots in Northwestern Province. Kabompo recorded 4,458 x 50kg bags of maize and Zambezi 1,015 x 50Kg bags of maize,” Siame stated. “A sum of K60.9 million has been paid to some farmers in Zambezi District.”

Siame who confirmed that the government had released K16 billion towards the programme said moisture content was still higher than acceptable levels.

“Apart from the high moisture content, maize deliveries have been delayed due to rains recently reported in various parts of the country,” stated Siame. “However, the Agency has positioned its agents, who are ready to receive crop that will meet the grain quality specifications, at all satellite depots. In addition, the government has released K16 billion towards the programme.”

According to some market sources, the FRA would only be able to enter the maize marketing season at “full strength” earliest end of June when the moisture content was expected to reduce to the acceptable levels of 12.5 per cent from the current average of 14 per cent.

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