Govt rules out hunger fears

THE country has enough maize to last until the next rain season and importation of maize would be the last option the country would resort to.

As at January 16, 2016, there were 1, 282, 797 metric tonnes of maize – enough to take the nation up to the next harvest, Agriculture Minister Given Lubinda has  revealed.

Allaying fears of a serious food shortage, Mr Lubinda said the maize was held by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA), Grain Traders Association of Zambia and the Zambia National Farmers Union.

“FRA alone has a total of 902, 812 metric tonnes of maize. Out of this total, 708, 515 metric tonnes of maize stock is committed to the millers for domestic consumption while 194, 297 metric tonnes is uncommitted maize stock that the agency is holding in reserve,” he said.

Mr Lubinda said according to information submitted to the National Stocks Committee chaired by him, Mr Lubinda said the private sector was holding 379, 985 metric tonnes of maize as at January 19, 2016.

Mr Lubinda said some of the maize was also available to be purchased by interested millers and processors.

“According to the National Food Balance Sheet, the country requires approximately 125,000 metric tonnes of maize per month for human consumption,” Mr Lubinda said. He added that the country also required 25,000 metric tonnes per month for industrial uses such as stockfeed and beer brewing, bringing the total maize requirement per month to 150,000 metric tonnes.

Mr Lubinda said FRA had entered into contracts with 91 millers who were each receiving a monthly allocation of maize.

He said FRA had been releasing approximately 100, 000 metric tonnes of maize per month to millers who were participating in the programme.

Mr Lubinda said the programme was anticipated to continue until June 2016.

“It is clear that the country does have sufficient stocks of maize to take us beyond July 2016, well after the start of the 2015/2016 harvest period,” he said.

Mr Lubinda reiterated  the statement made by President Edgar Lungu assuring the nation that the country had adequate stocks of maize up to the next harvest.

“Most of these stocks are in the safe custody of the FRA. The FRA also has sufficient stocks to meet the requirements in the districts that have been affected by the poor rainfall performance,” he said.

Mr Lubinda pledged to regularly continue updating the nation on the food security situation as well as the crop development for the 2016/2017 season.

And Mr Lubinda said Government through the Office of the Vice President under the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU), was already distributing relief food assistance to 31 districts.

He said the FRA had already released 6,000 metric tonnes to the DMMU for distribution to affected households.

“Although the rainfall situation has since improved, there is likelihood that the 2015/2016 maize crop will be less than what the country harvested last season,” Mr Lubinda said.

He said the northern half of the country has so far received better rainfall compared to the southern half.  Mr Lubinda said there would be more available maize for purchase in the northern half of the country.

“Despite the possibility of a reduction in production, I am confident that the country will still produce enough grain to take us through most of the 2016/2017 marketing season,” he said.

Mr Lubinda said his ministry with the participation of collaborating partners was conducting regular updates on the crop conditions in the country.

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