MAIZE output has increased to 3.3 million tonnes in the current harvesting season, the highest production recorded in Zambia’s history.
Agriculture minister Wylbur Simuusa said this afternoon that the production of rice, millet, groundnuts and tobacco has also increased this season compared to the last season.
He said the country’s maize production rose 32 percent in the 2013/2014 season from 2.5 million tonnes in the 2012/2013 season on the back of improved yields, area planted and increased investment in the sector, signalling a possible sharp drop in mealie-meal prices.
“This is the highest ever maize harvest recorded in Zambia’s history and provides us with the opportunity to adequately feed the nation and export the surplus,” Simuusa told journalists at a media briefing in Lusaka yesterday. “However, it also brings challenges of ensuring availability of adequate storage facilities to minimise losses and also address export policy issues.”
He said the government planned to export slightly over 300,000 tonnes of maize to Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Kenya.
Simusaa, however, added that the government would be cautious on exports so as not to compromise food security.
“The government through the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) will buy 500,000 tonnes of maize from small-scale farmers for strategic reserves,” Simuusa said.
He said Zambia’s maize stocks were currently estimated at 3.9 million tonnes, following a carryover stock of 597,192 tonnes from last year.
Simuusa said for an estimated population of 15.2 million people, the food balance sheets showed that total maize required for human consumption amounts to 1.5 metric tonnes while the requirements for stock feed and breweries was 355,630 tonnes.
“When these requirements are subtracted from the estimated total availability, the food balance sheet indicates that the country has recorded a maize surplus of 1.1 million,” he said.
Simuusa said it was the government’s belief that with this surplus, the mealie-mealie prices should start dropping.
And Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) president Allan Sakala said in an interview that mealie-meal prices were likely to start stabilising although a sharp drop would only be determined by the floor price.
“It is possible that we can have prices falling to somewhere between K50 to K60 per 25 kilogramme bag of breakfast meal and K40 and K50 for roller meal but that will be driven by the maize floor price,” said Sakala.
Earlier, Simuusa indicated that the government would only announce the maize floor price after the right moisture content for the maize was achieved.
He further said rice output would increase to 49, 640 tonnes this year compared to last year’s 44, 747 tonnes although the country would face a deficit of 15, 500 tonnes.
“Millet production has also increased by 27 per cent to 30, 504 tonnes while groundnut production has declined by 34 per cent to 143, 591 tonnes,” said Simuusa who also urged farmers to diversify their crops as a way of hedging risks of price fluctuations. “Tobacco production is forecast to increase by 19 per cent to 35, 669 tonnes.”