BY CHIMWEMWE MANGAZI:
The National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) has not come out clear on when it will start buying maize from farmers this year despite government releasing K5 billion for the process.
This comes against a background that the government recommended Auction Holdings Commodity Exchange (AHCX) to purchase maize on behalf of NFRA after the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture expressed dissatisfaction with how the grain reserve agency was handling the procurement process.
This followed complaints from small scale traders in 2017 who accused high profile people of taking advantage of the maize purchase process.
AHCX Research and Communications Manager, Mark Ndipita, said the market is ready and has started calling on traders to submit expressions of interest to supply the maize but are waiting for NFRA to signal commencement of the buying process.
“We have identified the Internal Procurement Committee (IPC) comprising the Anti -Corruption Bureau, Independent Auditors, the Civil Society Agriculture Network and other private organisations to make sure that there is transparency and accountability. So, on our part, we are ready,” Ndipita said.
However NFRA Chief Executive Officer, Nasinuku Saukira, said that he cannot be pressurised to start the process as he is still working on translating a political statement in to what will transpire in practice on the ground.
“When such things have been said by politicians, there are things we have to put in place as technicians, we have to interpret that statement into practice so that’s where we are now, sorting out one or two clearances. So shortly, we will start the process,” Saukira said.
This year NFRA plans to purchase 32,000 metric tonnes of maize.
Farm have in the past complained that late commencement of such exercises by the government exposes them to low prices offered by venders who make huge benefits at their expense.