As often as anticipated, FRA is expected to buy not more than 50,000 tonnes of maize from each of the 10 provinces due to budget constraints and strategic reserves.
Despite the poor crop yields experienced in other parts of the country, Luapula, Copperbelt, Northern and North-Western Provinces produced a lot of grain, more than the 50,00 mt threshold.
So, what happens to the excess produce in the country?
In the short term, the government can help FRA in several ways: by providing support in mitigating the budget constraints or easing exports; encouraging legitimate local regional and national marketing of grain; timely payments to peasant farmers; possibly through support for cooperatives; and establishing bilateral arrangements for grain exports with countries in the SADC region, especially with DR Congo.
Needless to say, savvy commercial farmers and maize millers on the Copperbelt have obviously spotted the grain market development trend in DR Congo and the financial benefits this can yield.
Although concerns over security, fraud, corruption and infrastructure reliability remain in DR Congo, these local investors have judged the benefits of their investment returns to outweigh the risks of doing business in DR Congo.
Of course, a lucrative grain market has not yet fully evolved in DR Congo.
The unique social issues and enduring problems of corruption and under-developed infrastructure remain key hindrances – issues that many of our government agencies like FRA continue to fail to take advantage of and address robustly. We may be witnessing the awakening of a sleeping grain market giant – Africa’s richest country in mineral wealth.
In addition to its vast natural resources, DR Congo is populated by over 50 million people.
And these people are hungry for food and for business opportunities; business opportunities to stand on their own feet and fend for themselves.
The timing could not be more fortuitous for FRA. The unending search for business opportunities and food by the people from DR Congo drives the demand for our mealie meal and maize bran.
Copperbelt may well be witnessing the dawn of illegitimate cross-border grain trade between the two countries.
Admittedly, the surge in mealie meal and maize bran smuggling activity across the long and porous DR Congo border could mean no financial benefits to FRA.