THREE commercial farmers have been accused of hoarding wheat anticipating a shortage from which they can gain by offloading at a high price.
Current Wheat stocks are expected to run out by May.
“These farmers are hoarding their Wheat in anticipation of a price hike in May, but Government has decided to call their bluff by allowing imports,” a source who is a member of Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) revealed on Saturday.
This situation has led to contradictory statements with the wheat farmers confirming a shortfall while the ZNFU has ruled out importation.
Government on its part declared an intention to allow the import of 170,000 tonnes.
Wheat Commodity Committee chairman under the ZNFU Donald Burton confirmed that said the country did not produce enough wheat owing to poor rainfall recorded last year.
Mr Burton said due to poor production, millers and the farmers convened a meeting and agreed to import 60, 000 tonnes of wheat in order to cushion the market.
“But when the millers went to the Ministry of Agriculture to seek permits they were allowed to import 75, 000 tonnes when all they needed was 60, 000 tonnes,” he said.
But Minister of Agriculture Given Lubinda said the importation of 150, 000 tonnes was arrived at on principle by cabinet.
He said Government had agreed through Cabinet to allow the importation of 150, 000 tonnes of wheat in order to cushion the situation.
Mr Lubinda said Government would not allow wheat farmers to exploit consumers.
“I asked cabinet to allow me issue importation of 150, 000 tonnes between now and the next harvest. This is because what farmers have will be consumed by May,” he said.
Mr Lubinda maintained that farmers did not have enough wheat which could sustain the nation until the next harvest in August.
“Those saying we have enough wheat in the country are lying because what Government knows is that what is currently available will only last up to May,” he said.
Mr Lubinda said Government wanted to ensure that there was wheat in the country after May by importing 150, 000 tonnes.
He said 150, 000 tonnes would be imported in two shipment of 75,000 tonnes, adding that in case the first consignment was consumed before next harvest, the second consignment would be brought in.