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Zambian farmers oppose controls to subdue record corn prices

Highlights

  • Prices for the food staple soared after drought hit production
  • Government has resisted calls to declare a national disaster

Zambia’s biggest farmer-lobby group is opposing any effort by the government to introduce price controls on the southern African nation’s corn after a drought reduced output.

“The Zambia National Farmers’ Union would like to disassociate itself from such acts as we have always believed in a free market environment,” it said in an emailed statement on Sunday.

Prices of corn, which Zambians eat as a thick porridge for most meals, have surged to a record this year after the worst drought in nearly four decades hurt growers in the southern and western parts of the country. Floods in other regions also curbed output. The government has said there are enough corn stockpiles and has so far resisted calls to declare a national disaster. The price of the cereal plays a prominent role in the nation’s politics.

Agriculture Minister Micheal Katambo blamed the situation on panic buying. He said market participants met last week and agreed to reduce the price they buy corn at to 130 kwacha ($9.92) for a 50 kilogram (110 pound) bag. Private buyers’ are buying the commodity for as much as 170 kwacha, while the country’s Food Reserve Agency’s purchase price is 110 kwacha, according to an Aug. 22 government statement.

“There’s been speculative pricing of maize by players using the perceived maize shortage in the country,” Katambo said in comments broadcast on state television Saturday, using a local term for corn. “Various stakeholder players rushed into the market to buy on speculation that there is a shortage of maize within the country. They panicked, so there is panic buying.”

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