The Government has been urged to declare a force majeure and stop the exportation of maize before the country suffers a more critical shortage following the exportation of maize harvested in the last three seasons which recorded bumper harvests.
The country is facing serious crisis because most maize has been exported to neighbouring countries at cheap prices and the situation has forced a sharp increase in the price of mealie meal. Most of the maize in the FRA shed has already been sold.
And UPND president Hakainde Hichilema has said that the failure by the government to address the nation on the shortage of maize and subsequent increase of mealie meal prices was posing a risk to food security.
Meanwhile the ZNFU has warned Zambians to brace themselves for higher mealie meal prices.
Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives told the Daily Nation that the country had no maize because all the grain lying around in the country was already sold for exports and paid for by neighboring countries.
The officials said that currently the Ministry of Agriculture was panicking to ensure that government through the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) collects the maize and store it in the sheds before the owners take away the maize.
The official said that the maize which was still in various FRA sheds had already been bought by neighboring Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at a much lower price.
“It doesn’t make sense for anyone in government even at FRA to mislead the nation that the only maize which has run out is subsidies, the truth is that we have completely run out of maize because we over exported subsidized maize and we shall experience frequent mealie meal price increments. It is a crisis and an urgent solution is needed,” the official who did not want to be named said.
And Mr. Hichilema said that the PF government must stop exporting maize to neighboring countries because hunger was looming in the country.
Mr. Hichilema claimed said that currently the country did not have the capacity to feed it people because of the unreasonable exports of the grain.
He said many foreign grain traders were in the country buying maize from small scale farmers in rural areas because the PF government had put a limit on what FRA would buy this marketing season.
“We have these foreign grain traders who have gone into villages in Kalomo, Choma, Monze, Namwala and other places buying maize. Even FRA will not reach its target because these people are buying in bulk. Farmers would prefer to sell their 800 bags of maize to these people rather than keep 153 bags for FRA,” he said.
He said that the current maize crisis the nation was experiencing was as a result of the PF instability and poor agriculture policies.
Mr. Hichilema said that it was also doubtful that mealie meal prices would reduce any time soon because o f the manner the PF government was running the affairs of the nation.
“The biggest problem this country has is that this PF government is running the affairs like Ifintu nibwangu bwangu. There is no proper buying of maize. If millers now can afford to buy from the open market at K65 000 a bag, why not FRA provide the same maize at the same price too? The fact is that the country has run out of maize and this government is keeping quite and not explaining to the people what is happening about the increase in prices,” he said.
He said it was unfortunate that the PF government had allowed the increase of various good and service, adding that the people of Zambia should heed to the Bank of Zambia’s warning about inflation in the nation.
Meanwhile ZNFU president Jarvis Zimba warned that the price of mealie meal would continue to go up.
Mr. Zimba said, “It is therefore important that Zambians, our people brace themselves for more expensive mealie meal on the market.”
But when contacted for a comment Agriculture Minister Emmanuel Cheenda hung up his mobile phone when the reporter asked him if the country was facing a maize crisis.