FRA Price Review: Our Focus Should be on Linking Farmers to Markets

Lusaka, July 21, 2018

On Friday 27 July, a week after the FRA’s announcementthat it would purchase maize at K65 per 50Kg bag for the 2018 crop marketing season, the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) announced that the Board and Management of the FRA had decided to review the price of maize upwards with consid-eration of a number of factors. The FRA will therefore be purchasing maize at K70/bag this farming season.

While the FRA indicated that the decision to review the price of maize was because it had received mixed reactions from various stakeholders which necessitated further consultations, the decision raises concern regarding policy inconsistency in the agricultural sector.

Policy inconsistency has remained one of the key concerns that has limited private sector participa-tion in the agriculture sector for a number of years. And as stated previously, CUTS is of the view that rather than change the FRA price, the government should rather have redirected its resources to facilitating farmer access to private sector markets in light of the low FRA price.

Even now there are areas where the private sector is able to offer higher prices than the K70/bag that the FRA is offering. In some areas farmers are able to sell their maize at up to K80 per 50kg bag. It would therefore have been in the best of interest of farmers to have had the Government provide the necessary resources to access these markets. We therefore remain of the view that the Government should redouble its efforts to ensure that farmers have access to private sector markets so that they are able to sell their maize at the prices that the private sector is offering at the moment.

An avenue to access private sector prices that has remained underutilized is the Zambian Commodi-ties Exchange (ZAMACE). ZAMACE provides a transparent trading platform for all actors in the agricultural sector. Farmers particularly would be able to benefit from its operations as it provides a platform for them to store their maize in certified warehouses so that they are able to sell it at a later date at a competitive price. Once a farmer has stored their maize in a ZAMACE certified warehouse, they receive a receipt that they can either sell, or use as collateral toobtain a bank loan.

ZAMACEalso works in the best interest of the other agricultural sector players. Millers are able to purchase maize through a transparent and competitive bidding process; and ultimately consumers benefit because they will be able to buymealie meal produced from maize that has been bought at the most competitive price.

In order to promote a private-sector let agricultural sector as espoused by the Seventh National De-velopment Plan, it is imperative that policy consistency remain a key feature of the sector. This year we have seen policy changes in both the input and marketing side of the agricultural sector with changes undertaken in the implementation of the FISP programme – and now most recently with the FRA price. Such changes serve as a deterrent for the private sector to invest in agriculture, which is contrary to our aspirations as a country. We therefore we urge the Government to take a more long-term approach to their decision-making by ensuring policy consistency and working to link farmers, particularly small scale farmers, to markets.

For further information please contact:
Chenai Mukumba, Centre Coordinator, Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), at or 097 8055 293.