—The civil society in Eastern Province has praised government for paying farmers who sold their maize to the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) within two weeks of purchasing the grain.
Speaking on Feel Free radio programme dubbed “The big issue,” Civil Society for Poverty Reduction (CSPR) regional coordinator, Maxon Nkhoma and the Chipata District Farmer Association (CDF) coordinator, Virgil Malambo, noted that this is the first time that government is making prompt payments to farmers for the sale of maize.
The two said the move is a positive step and advised the government to continue paying farmers in good time, saying this will motive the farmers to sell the maize to FRA as opposed to private buyers.
Mr Nkhoma said farmers are happy with government’s move of releasing money for the purchase of maize.
He, however, appealed to government to ensure that all farmers are paid K70 per 50 kilogram bag of maize, adding that a number of private buyers are currently paying as little as K50 per bag.
Mr Nkhoma said though the economy of Zambia is based on a free market policy, government should ensure that no one pays below the market floor price in order to protect the people.
Mr Nkhoma stated that this will help ensure that farmers recover money spent in the production of the grain, saying currently farmers are not getting enough as they are selling the grain at a lower rate compared to the production costs.
He said the government should not allow farmers to suffer just because it is a free market economy.
Meanwhile, Mr Malambo wondered how other buyers are selling the commodity below the floor price, saying the floor price set by government should serve as a guide and that no one is supposed to sell below the set price.
Mr Malambo also noted that farmers are being exploited by tobacco merchants who do not want farmers to be independent because they want to continue to control the farmers by setting their own prices for crops.
He noted that farmers are facing a number of challenges in the production of tobacco where merchants only buy tobacco from farmers who were given loans by the same merchants, who he accused of forming a cartel that exploits the farmers.
Mr Malambo said the farmers are forced to get loans as independent farmers do not have a market for their produce.
He also accused the tobacco merchants of buying at a lower rate as compared to the current Kwacha/ US dollar rate.
“The marketing of tobacco is done in US dollars and most of the merchants were buying the produce to lower rates compared to the prevailing rate. Those who sold their tobacco when the rate was at K7, were paid K6 or K5.9 in some cases,” he said.
He called on the Tobacco Board of Zambia (TBZ) to ensure that farmers are protected against such unfair activities in the marketing of crops.