By Scoop Reporter

THERE is need safeguard our grain jealously because we anticipate heightened smuggling as most countries in the region did not produce a lot of food, Agriculture Minister Michael Katambo has warned.

Speaking at the FRA Mwembeshi depot in Lusaka today when he flagged off the crop purchasing exercise, Mr. Katambo said if left unchecked, Zambia’s bumper harvest and food security will be under threat as smuggling is likely to increase.

“Smuggling is a big threat to the country and this is despite recording a good harvest. If left unchecked, our grain will be under serious threat. It is important to note that if we do not secure our grain, we risk losing it to other countries.

“Therefore, it is expected that this situation in the region will add severe pressure on the grain we have in the country. Historically, our biggest threat with smuggling has been from the Democratic Republic of Congo but this time around, other countries have also not done well in producing the grain,” Mr. Katambo said.

He says his ministry is working closely with other Government wings especially the defence and security forces to ensure that smuggling is curtailed.

He says as the country celebrates its bumper harvest, it is very critical at this stage to ensure that all grain is secured for national food security.

And Mr. Katambo has directed the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to ensure that all the money released by Government towards the crop purchase is dedicated to paying farmers as it is not meant for any other purposes.

He has also directed that the agency must knockout all middlemen between the FRA and farmers in crop purchase says the ministry is aware that in the past, there were some small traders who bought maize from small scale farmers to sell to the FRA at a small markup.

“I would like to take this or opportunity to inform the FRA that this need to stop. To this effect, I hereby expect the FRA to establish as many satellite depots as possible. They have set up about 2,100 satellite depots across the 10 provinces in designated areas as this will ensure the issue of middlemen between the FRA and farmers is cut off.

“As you may be aware, national food security is ranked highly among the list of priorities for Government especially during the period of CIVID-19 pandemic which has threatened many countries. Amid the COVID-19, and as directed by the President, my ministry is focused to ensuring that there will be no disruptions to local food supply as a result of COVID-19

“In light of this directive from the President, I am very happy to report that the Ministry, working with other Government agencies, has so far facilitated the border entry of agricultural inputs such as fertilizer and agro chemicals which are mostly imported. This facilitation has been done to ensure that we safeguard the current harvest for national food security.

“We also have to ensure that agricultural inputs are made available lf the next farming season. I am happy to inform you that from the contracted amount of fertilizer, under FISP, more than 80 percent of the basal dressing (D Compound) and Urea, which is top dressing, is already in the country.

“In terms of see, all seed is grown within Zambia. As a matter of fact, Zambia is now the net exporter of seed and is ranked among the top three seed producing countries on the African continent. It is therefore very safe for me to say that crop production in the 2020/2021 farming season will not be affected by effects of the Corona Virus,” he said.

Meanwhile, FRA executive director Chola Kafwabulula says the agency will start buying the crop from the farmers starting next week.

“We are ready to start purchasing the maize as early as next week. Through employment creation, we have engaged 4,800 seasonal buyers and security guards drawn from local communities who are mainly women and the youths.

“We have also started the disinfection of storage facilities to ensure that there are no grain diseases as well as the registration of local transporters for local movements and securing of purchased grain,” Mr. Kafwabulula said.

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