The Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture has expressed concern over the 2017/18 farm gate prices which the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development released on Friday, saying some minimum prices will not benefit the farmer.
In the farm gate price list signed by Secretary for Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Gray Nyandule-Phiri, the minimum price for maize has gone down to K150 per kilogramme (kg) from K170 last year, a development that has irked the committee.
The committee says the low price will decintivise the farmer and may lead to low maize production next year.
Chairperson of the committee Joseph Chidanti-Malunga, labelled the K150 per kg minimum maize price as “retrogressive,” saying it will not benefit farmers.
“We are anticipating that the harvest this year will be lower than it was last year. If you look at how we have performed in this year’s cropping season, there were dry spells here and there and the inputs were hard to find.
“Apart from that, the Farm Input Subsidy Programme [Fisp] did not go well. So, to set the minimum price below what was last year—when the country had a surplus of 30 percent—we think it is not correct and government has to relook at the price. The price [of maize] should go up this year to benefit smallholder farmer,” he said.
Chidanti-Malunga said the minimum maize price will be one of the committee’s main agenda during next month’s budget meeting which it will ask government to revise the farm gate price.
Commenting on the matter, agriculture expert Tamani Nkhono-Mvula said farmers should not panic over the new gate prices, since it only gives them the picture of the price of the farm products.
“But government needs to find a mechanism of enforcing the minimum price as it has proved that farm gate price does not benefit small farmers in rural areas as vendors buy the farm produce lower than the minimum price set by government,” he said.
Minimum prices for other farm products include polished rice at K530 per kg, sorghum at K150 per kg, soya beans at K280 per kg, shelled groundnuts at K450 per kg.