State produce trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) is from today scheduled to start purchasing maize from commercial farmers, having finished buying the commodity from smallholder farmers last Friday.
In a telephone interview on Monday, Admarc general manager Rhino Chiphiko said they have so far bought 66 000 metric tonnes (MT) from the smallholder farmers.
He said: “So, most of our markets will open from tomorrow [today] for commercial farmers. However, the smallholder farmers can still approach our depots to sell their maize.”
Chiphiko, who indicated that they want the country to have enough stocks of maize, said Admarc is from this week expected to also start accessing its K60 billion loan it applied from several commercial banks for the maize purchase.
The corporation earlier indicated that it obtained a K50 billion commercial bank loan, apart from receiving K12 billion from Treasury for the maize purchase exercise. But Chiphiko on Monday said the initial loan is K60 billion.
This means Admarc will spend a total K72 billion on the maize purchases.
According to Chiphiko, Admarc needs K4 billion per week and based on the arrangement with the commercial banks on the loans acquired, they will be receiving tranches of K5 billion weekly.
Chiphiko said that the commercial banks indicated that they cannot release huge amounts at once for security purposes.
The parastatal has 441 established markets nationwide plus an additional 277 temporary markets.
Once the funds are released by the commercial banks, Chiphiko said Admarc will transfer the money to the markets for the purchases.
Admarc started buying maize on August 2 2021 at K150 per kilogramme (kg) and it plans to buy a total of 300 000MT.
In a separate interview on Monday, Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture chairperson Sameer Suleman said they made it clear that they do not want Admarc to borrow money from commercial banks; hence, they are not impressed with the current situation.
He said his committee engaged the ministries of Finance and Agriculture and proposed that Admarc be given K95 billion to buy maize and other farm produce including for its turnaround strategy.
Said Suleman: “We asked that Admarc be given this money not in the form of a loan and we were given an assurance. But we were surprised to be told later that the institution was told to go and borrow money from commercial banks and at high interest rates.
“It seems there is no political will to resuscitate Admarc because this is an institution that is meant to benefit us all. As a committee, we are disappointed with this arrangement.”