Zambia will triple the amount of white maize it will buy from small-scale farmers to keep them in business as they do not have a ready market for their produce, Minister of Agriculture Brian Chituwo said on Saturday.
Zambian farmers produced 1.9 million tonnes of white maize in 2008/09, compared with 1.3 million previously.
Despite the bountiful harvest, many small-scale farmers do not have a buyer for their crop.
Chituwo told Reuters in an interview the government would purchase the white maize at 65,000 Zambia kwacha per 50 kg bag, an 18 percent increase from last season’s price and above what the private sector offers.
The minister said the state-run Food Reserve Agency (FRA), which is the crop buyer of last resort, would increase the maize it would buy from farmers to 341,000 tonnes from the initial 110,000 tonnes planned earlier.
“We told the FRA to borrow 271 billion kwacha from banks to enable it buy the additional 231,000 tonnes of maize from farmers,” Chituwo said.
“We want our farmers to sell their maize at a reasonable price to enable them prepare for the next farming season. The mandate of the FRA is to buy the maize from remote areas where the private sector is unwilling to go.”
In an effort to boost the maize harvest, the number of small-scale farmers that receive subsidised fertiliser more than doubled to 500,000 this season.
Zambia has managed to turn its maize production around over the past three agricultural seasons, and become a net exporter of maize due to good rains and the government’s subsidised fertiliser programme and supplying seed to peasant farmers.
Chituwo said the government would set up an institution with the private sector to deal with grain marketing to ensure that farmers had a market for their harvest.
“The marketing component is very important in the production of maize and other grain crops and we need to create an institution that will complete the cycle,” he said.