THE high costs of doing business and production as well as poor productivity are the root causes of high mealie meal and other food prices in the country, the Zambia National Union of Farmers has charged.
ZNFU president Jervis Zimba said the solution to reduce and stabilize mealie meal and other food prices lay in improving the country’s agricultural productivity.
Mr Zimba said for years now mealie meal consumer subsidies through discounted Food Reserve Agency (FRA) maize supplied to millers had failed to significantly reduce mealie meal prices.
He said this was because subsidies had deprived key agricultural development areas such as extension services delivery and research of their budgetary allocations for more impactful effects on food security, farm incomes and agricultural jobs for most of the youths roaming the streets.
ZNFU therefore applauded Agriculture Minister Dora Siliya’s stance to prioritize smart production subsidies, agricultural productivity and restrained FRA participation in maize marketing.
He said Government needed to reposition the agricultural line ministry and allow it to focus more on improving agricultural productivity and profitability, for Zambia to achieve its planned green revolution.
“We cannot agree more with our minister that the Ministry of Agriculture must focus on developing agriculture as a paying business for all players in its various value chains, with less political interference.
“For instance, if Zambia more than doubled its current small scale maize yields, then mealie meal prices will automatically and drastically fall,” he said.
Mr Zimba said the minister’s position on prioritized smart production subsidies and ZNFU call for improved funding to extension services and research in the 2017 National Budget was timely and must be supported by all industry stakeholders if it were to help lower the high cost of production and improve agricultural productivity.
This will in turn sustainably reduce and stabilize mealie meal and other food prices.
Mr Zimba stated that restraining FRA purchases to the 500,000 MT strategic reserves would stimulate private sector participation, a development which would improve grain marketing, transparency and price competitiveness. “Our appeal to our minister is that this position on FRA must consistently be upheld as it is in conformity with the FRA Act,’’ he said.