GOVERNMENT SHOULD GET SERIOUS WITH FOOD SECURITY
…. 250,000 metric tonnes is a joke says Peter Sinkamba
Kitwe… Saturday April 22, 2023
Currently Zambia has 458 units of storage facilities whose storage capacity is 2 million metric tonnes (MT) of which only 1.1 million MT is serviceable.
At the moment, the storage facilities are literally empty because the 168,000 MT in storage facility is already committed or sold.
The current maize production cycle for the 2022-2023 season is almost at harvest stage. However, the poor roll-out of the Fertilizer Input Support Program (FISP) is expected to impact output.
The national output is expected to be less than the 2021/2022 output of 3 million MT, most likely 2.5 million MT.
The current national consumption for both domestic and industrial uses is about 3 million MT. This implies that the country is likely to have a deficit of 500,000 MT of maize to meet the national domestic and industrial consumption.
Government, through the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) has announced the purchase of maize and other crops during the 2023/2024 marketing season. FRA has stated that it will buy 250,000 MT of maize; 1,000 MT of paddy rice; and 50,000 MT of soya beans. In effect, the total storage capacity for the grains to be procured will only be 300,000 MT of the 1.1 million MT that is serviceable.
In terms of maize, it is therefore envisaged by Government that the private sector will buy the remainder 2 million MT.
The implication of this is that the country will remain staple food insecure for the next two to three years. This is so because government uses FRA maize stocks to stabilize mealie meal prices.
Further, this entails that the food security objectives of FRA under the UPND Government have now become more symbolic than practical. This can be deduced from the poor distribution of inputs for the 2022/2023 farming season as well as the just announced marketing season for 2023/2024.
It is sad that staple food insecurity remains a significant challenge in UPND Government, that require urgent attention. But it appears, staple food security is not a key agenda issue for these colleagues of ours. The conduct of the Minister of Agriculture, both inside and out of Parliament tells the whole story.
Believe me, consumers should brace for price volatility and scarcity of mealie meal in 2023 and 2024.
Green Party President