Saturday, March 05, 2011

FRA bemoans challenges in selling maize

FRA bemoans challenges in selling maize
By Ndinawe Simpelwe
Sat 05 Mar. 2011, 04:01 CAT

THE Food Reserve Agency has admitted that the biggest loser from the 2009/2010 bumper harvest is the Treasury.

During a discussion forum organised by Economics Association of Zambia, FRA marketing manager Lazarous Mawere said the government had spent more money in handling the bumper harvest than what was used to produce the grain.

He said instead of using a budget of K600 billion, the agency spent about K1.14 trillion in managing the harvest.

Mawere said the government had been forced to buy maize at K65,000 per 50 kilogramme bag and sell at lower prices in order to help the farmers who produced the crop.

“The Treasury has taken a knock because we are buying high and selling low. The other problem was our storage facilities. We don't have enough facilities and the private sector was charging high fees to rent their sheds,” he said.

Mawere said the FRA still had about 880,000 metric tonnes of maize in their sheds which was supposed to be sold.

He said the agency was facing difficulties to find a market for the maize where they could sell at a profit.

“If Zambia has surplus, chances are that everybody else in the region has got maize enough or a surplus. Exceptions will be countries where there are problems, like political problems especially Zimbabwe and Congo DR and those were the potential markets we were looking at. Otherwise everyone else has maize,” Mawere said.

He said the agency was getting more worried because there was another anticipated bumper harvest coming while there were still huge tonnes of maize in the sheds.

Mawere said the government would lose more in handling the next bumper harvest if the issues of storage were not addressed.

He however revealed that the government had engaged some private entities to build more sheds that would accommodate the anticipated bumper harvest.

Mawere said most of the sheds would be complete in three months’ time.

“We need a long-term solution to this problem. We can't keep on building and building for the maize that we can't sell,” said Mawere.

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