The Food Reserve Agency (FRA) can only start exporting maize after the local purchase period closes even after President Lungu directed the agency to immediately start selling the maize abroad in order to generate local income.
In an interview, Kafwabulula said the President Lungu recently instructed the maize buying agency to sell the crop to other countries in the region, but this cannot be done before the local purchase exercise is closed.
Last week, President Lungu instructed the FRA sell excess tonnes of maize to foreign countries as a foreign exchange earner.
But the FRA strongman said in an interview that his organization had heeded the president’s directive and would open the FRA selling points for international destinations immediately the local purchasing exercise closes.
“This programme would be some time in November this year after an audited had been carried out to evaluate the current maize marketing season. We will definitely sell maize to foreign buyers,” he said.
After the audit, Kafwabulula said that the FRA would then advise the government as to how many tonnes of maize would be appropriate for export.
Kafwabulula said the FRA would not start exporting the maize immediately in face of the presidential directive because a thorough audit had to be conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of such an activity and its impact on the local supply of maize.
He said there were experts in the FRA and ministry of agriculture who would give professional advise to the relevant government wings in order to balance the local and foreign flows of maize to avoid exporting too much while starving the locals out of their staple food.
“The directive of President Lungu is welcome, but the FRA can only start exporting maize after the closure of the maize marketing season and an audit of the exercise conducted. This can only be done sometime later in November. After this, we can now advise the government on how many metric tonnes of maize can be exported,” he said.
The FRA still faces the major challenge of buying maize from local farmers, especially small and medium scale farmers who rely on the agency as the only reliable market.
In the past, there have been delays in pays farmers for the maize supplied to the FRA, owing the lack of funds and the agency’s own capacity to store the crop once it is secured from farmers.
He said the agency was looking forward to pay the farmers within two weeks of supply to avoid what happened in the last marketing season. Maize from farmers, scores of peasants still remain stranded with their crop because of the limited capacity y the agency to buy maize.
This leaves these farmers to transact with the private sector, where peasants are forced to sell their crop at local prices that are not recommended by the government.
So far, the FRA has planned to erect 98 storage slabs to the tune of US$ 73 million by an American firm and this is to help save the maize crop from damage, especially during the rainy season.