Hakainde Hichilema has given President Edgar Lungu a 15-day ultimatum to increase the price of maize this marketing season from K60 per 50 kilogramme bag.
The Food Reserve Agency (FRA) announced that a 50 kilogramme bag of maize would be bought at K60 and that there was no chance for an upward adjustment.
But ZNFU accused FRA of swindling farmers and advised that no one should sell their produce to the agency.
Farmers across the country have complained about this year’s maize price, a K25 reduction from last season’s offer of K85 per 50 kilogramme bag.
Commenting on the farmers’ complaints over this year’s maize price, Hichilema said pegging the price of maize at K60 showed that President Lungu’s government did not care about agriculture.
“I feel for the farmers! Look at how much this guy wants to buy the maize! Really, is that economically viable? Do you think that is being supportive of the agriculture sector? The answer is no. This guy is not a farmer and so does not know what it takes to farm and let alone manage the agriculture sector. I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt that he is one of those that cannot even put up a garden right behind or inside their yard and such people can’t know that if there is a poor price of maize, then farmers won’t manage to buy farming inputs and prepare for the next season. What is appalling is that this government of Lungu has now started stealing from farmers. The question I have for them is that why are they so in a hurry to steal from anyone? Our people are hurting socially, economically and politically and Lungu should know that. That is why I am giving him 15 days in which to increase the price of maize from K60 to not less than K75. If this is not done, we will mobilize farmers to do a peaceful protest against them,”
“I feel for that sister and brother in Nakonde, Mbala, Mpulungu, Sinda, Mpongwe, Mkushi, Nkeyema, Chavuma, Maala and Chongwe who spent energy planting maize last season while hoping for a great price this year. All I can say to the country is: farmers, worry not, I am your fellow farmer and fully understand your cries but do not give up, and please have hope because help is on the way. It will not be long, we will run the agriculture sector differently because God, blessed us with the skill, knowledge and understanding of the agriculture sector, and if we don’t do well, we will consult you and not force maize floor prices on you.”
He said small scale farmers had produced their maize at a huge cost considering the high prices of inputs and it was unfair for the government, through FRA, to purchase the crop for “peanuts”.
“Other than stealing from road contracts by way of awarding close associates contracts, this government of President Lungu has now turned to stealing from poor farmers who basically earn an income annually. This guy [President Lungu] is heartless. How can you surely steal from the poor while claiming that you love them? You know he is playing with lives. Remember in 2016 when lobbying for support from farmers, he crookedly increased the price and publicly said that he was going to increase the floor price. But now that there are no elections, he has basically turned farmers into doormats and he even says ‘I can’t intervene’. What kind of a leader is that? He claims to be in charge, but is that being in charge? Anyway, people that have committed crimes always behave like this,” Hichilema said. “Farmers encountered a lot of difficulties when producing that maize and other agricultural produce and to come and offer a K60 per 50 kg of their hard- earned produce is an insult. It shows that these friends of ours in the PF do not care about the majority of our people who are dependent on agriculture for survival.”
He has called on the Zambians not to get accustomed to lies but hold accountable those “claiming leadership”.
“You see, each day, I hear them say the economy is doing better. Look here, I am an ardent follower of current affairs and really, if Lungu has improved the economy as he claims, what are the practical indicators when he has refused to buy maize above K75 per 50kg, when thousands of our youths are jobless, when miners are being retrenched, when electricity bills have more than tripled, including water bills? If the economy is performing better, why is it that cooking oil prices have increased, bus fares are high? Really, this guy does not know what he is doing in that rented house (State House), and when alone, and I mean when he is in a room alone, he must reflect whether this country has in any way moved forward or reversed economically but also politically from the time he begun claiming leadership,”