State produce trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) has denied abandoning farmers in its plans to buy maize in the 2015/16 season.
Instead, Admarc says it has a strategy to buy 60 000 metric tonnes (MT) directly from farmers.
Admarc has published a tender notice for 150 000 MT of maize from private traders who are registered with the Office of the Director of Public Procurement (ODPP), a development that prompted Civil Society Agriculture Network (CisaNet) to caution that the move would create room for vendors to exploit farmers by buying maize at less than the set minimum prices.
However, speaking in an interview at the weekend, Admarc chief executive officer Foster Mulumbe said since the grain trader could not stop farmers from selling maize to other players apart from Admarc, the strategy was to target themselves before it is resold to big conglomerates.maize from the traders
He said apart from the 150 000 MT which would be purchased using the tendering process, Admarc would buy maize from farmers once it had sufficiently dried to ensure quality control.
Admarc has argued that unlike private traders, the parastatal cannot buy maize with a high moisture content because it would be damaged in storage.
“From our observations last year, whatever traders bought from farmers they sold to grain traders but now want to capture both, from farmers and traders. Farmers have not been forgotten, if we ignore the traders who buy from farmers, we will lose out as we have done in the past year,” said Mulumbe.
He added that should Admarc manage to get 150 000 MT, there will be 210 000 MT before it could consider importing from neighbouring Zambia or Tanzania.
In a favourable season, Admarc requires a maximum 25 000 MT and sells a maximum 15 000 MT at its city markets only because demand is low in rural areas.
However, due to poor crop harvest last year, Admarc sold about 60 000 MT most of which was purchased from abroad with loans obtained from commercial banks and funding from Treasury.
“If we could have 210000 MT to 300 000 MT, we will not face the situation that we faced in the past year. We will not need to buy from outside because it will be more than three times what we handled,” Mulumbe said.
Delivery of the 150 000 weeks from the date of awarding tenders once Admarc receives approvals from the ODPP possibly a week after bids are opened.
However, CisaNet has insisted that the strategy was a short-term solution which would still not benefit the farmer but the vendor.
“Already, these vendors are buying from farmers for as low as K50 per kilogramme and yet there is a possibility that Admarc will buy from the farmer at K160 per kilogramme but by that time, vendors will have already purchased most of the maize,” CisaNet national director Tamani Nkhono-Mvula said yesterday.
But with a $10 million guarantee from the government and assurances of provision of extra funding in the 2016/17 budget, Mulumbe said there would be enough funding to implement the strategy.
Last year Admarc secured loans and used some of the money to procure maize from Zambia at an average buying price of K95 per kg and a landed price of K136 per kg.
This meant that a 50kg bag of maize bought from Zambia which would have cost K6 700, far above the recommended price at Admarc depots, was sold for less.
Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has projected a maize production of 2 719 425 MT in the first round of crop estimates which is two percent lower than the 2014/15 final round estimates. n