Eastern Province Farmers Facing Hardships
Small scale and peasant farmers in Eastern Province say that they are suffering from poor policies of the Patriotic Front (PF) and they have promised ‘deal’ with the government during the next general elections.
The farmers, particularly those growing maize, tobacco, cotton and sorghum have said Michael Sata’s government had made farming a nightmare in the Eastern province. The farmers said the people of Eastern province were dependent on agriculture as the source of food, but the current administration had made access to inputs difficult and expensive whereas the market prices for their agricultural commodities were too on the other hand.
For instance, cotton farmers in Eastern Province were being forced to sell their produce at K3.10, but the initial expectation was to sell the item at thresholds higher than K5.
“We have failed to deal with the current hardships. The government is not listening. Where shall we run to because the people who must address these problems are the ones who are seen to be doing non responsive to the plight of farmers. The prices of farming inputs are very expensive, but we are being forced to sell our produce at very low prices. The government must intervene and stop the abuse of farmers by some players from the private sector,” Cotton Association of Zambia vice chairperson Michael Banda said.
Banda said his association would not sit back and watch while farmers were suffering but it would continue pressing for other avenues to correct matters.
Banda said the association would drag the current impasse where farmers were being forced to sell their cotton at extremely low prices the Consumer Tribunal where an amicable solution would be put in place.
“The matter is in the hands of the tribunal because we want to agree on a reasonable price of cotton between the out-grower companies and the farmers in Eastern province. We have taken the matter of prices to the Consumer Tribunal although the buying of cotton has begun but people are still reluctant to sell their produce,” he said.
He said cotton out grower companies were abusing farmers in the countryside by paying them low prices even when there was a very high demand for cotton in Zambia.
Meanwhile, some farmers who are stuck with bags of maize have asked to government to devise a plan that would shield them from private buyers who are demanding to buy the commodity at prices lower than the recommended K70. The farmers want an increase in the 2014 selling price because it was too low and some private companies had taken advantage of the failure by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to buy procure the maize to abuse the peasants.
One of the private companies, which the farmers are complaining about is Cargill Zambia Limited, which was purchasing maize at prices lower than K70.
But Cargill Zambia Limited has insisted that Zambia was a free market economy and the prices of commodities were based on the prevailing market conditions.
says the price which farmers are being paid for maize is based on market conditions.
Cargill Zambia Manager in charge of projects Emmanuel Mbewe insisted that his company was not abusing anyone because it was paying the farmers based on makert conditions and how much the company was projected to sell the maize.
“The price which Cargill is paying the farmers is inline with the market indicators which was fair and competitive with other industry players. As a company operating in the private sector, the price we pay farmers for their maize is based on marketr conditions and how much we are able to sell the maize on for,” he said.
Recently, there were protests among farmersin Eastern province who wanted the government to intervene in the mater where they had accused Cargill Zambia Limited of ignoring the government prescribed maize floor price of K70.