Wednesday, June 02, 2010
By Chiwoyu Sinyangwe
Wed 02 June 2010, 19:00 CAT
LOCAL farmers are ready to quit maize growing if the government does not adequately deal with marketing disorders, Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) president Jervis Zimba has said.
And Zimba said the country will have to export an extra 300,000 metric tonnes of maize from the planned one million to avoid carryover stocks depressing local maize price.
Zambia this year produced a record 2.7 million tonnes of white non-genetically modified maize, the first in over a decade.
During a tour of farming installations in Eastern Province by the ZNFU and Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, Zimba said it was frustrating for farmers to continue getting the lowest returns in the value chain of the staple food when they were the most important players.
Zimba said the 1989 situation when the country produced 1.9 million tonnes of maize and only to slump into a deficit the following year, leading to a collapsed agriculture sector during larger periods of Frederick Chiluba’s regime should serve as a lesson that farmers could easily abandon maize growing if marketing problems were not resolved.
“When Chiluba was president, the farmers stopped growing maize because when we had a surplus, they came in promissory notes,” Zimba said. “We reduced to something around 500,000 metric tonnes and that was all and we started importing and if this is where the country wants...well and good, the farmers will be glad to stop growing maize.”
He regretted that the government had not made a concrete position on how to deal with the current maize bumper harvest despite numerous statements that include exporting the crop.
Zimba said there was need for the authorities to subsidise exports for Zambia to compete with other major producers like South Africa for the regional markets.
He said failure to export the excess maize would lead to a slump in output as farmers could abandon maize growing for other crops.
“There is need to put in a policy direction as to where we are going to resolve the issue of marketing. At the moment, there are so many statements we are hearing,” he said. “These problems in maize marketing have a serious potential to destroy what we built in the last few years.
For two years we have had a surplus but if this marketing situation is not handled with care under government intervention, the potential of it collapsing is very high…there is no way we can leave this maize to rot. In a surplus situation, private sector does not participate and if they participate, they pay the farmer a low price because they don’t care.”
Zimba, who noted that the K65, 000 per 50 kilogramme of maize was not a priority, said the export quota would have to be raised from the current one million tonnes projected by the government.
“We might be forced actually to export a little bit more…our figures, we are looking at exporting somewhere around 1.3 million tonnes in order not to have serious carryovers for the next crop,” said Zimba.
“What we don’t want to see is another huge surplus for the next season. Our priority as national farmers union is how to deal with the issues of marketing.”