He said a maize stock verification exercise was undertaken two weeks ago to ascertain quantities of maize stocks held by FRA which showed that, at the beginning of January 2013, there was 916,934.44 tonnes of maize in storage facilities throughout the country.
“In order to mitigate the rising maize and mealie meal prices, on the domestic market, the agency was allowed to offload some maize to millers from its new maize stocks commencing December 2012.
“In an effort to contain maize and mealie meal prices, the agency was authorised to sell a total of just under 184,000 tonnes (183,405.28 tonnes) to millers and communities between January 1 and January 26 February 2013 which left a balance of 733,529 tonnes of good quantity maize grain purchased in 2012,” he said.
He said the balance of maize grain was more than sufficient to last up to the 2013/2014 farming harvest based on current average consumption of about 100,000 tonnes per month and to meet contractual obligations, both private and public.
Mr Sichinga told the House that there were sufficient maize reserves for FRA to export some of the excess which could deteriorate due to poor storage.
“This will not only contribute to required revenues for repayment of bank loans obtained by FRA under guarantee from the treasury but will also free the much needed storage space to accommodate the 2013 harvest stocks,” he said.
He said the 2012/13 farming season was likely to yield above two million tonnes and that if a total consumption requirement was about 2.5 million tonnes annually, the country would have a shortfall of 500,000 tonnes which would be met by current carry over storage reserves of about 500,000 tonnes.
He said FRA would not offload its maize stocks on the domestic market after the end of April each year since there was normally new output from farmers onto the open market.
“This measure is intended to ensure that maize prices at harvest time, are not dampened by the activities of the agency,” Mr Sichinga said. He said FRA would only be allowed to export about 200, 000 tonnes of excess maize stocks and maintain 500,000 tonnes for strategic reserves.
MMD Petauke Member of Parliament Dora Siliya wondered why some parts of the country were experiencing shortages of mealie meal such as Eastern province, to which Mr Sichinga said the shortage was as a result of insufficient milling firms in those areas.
Mr Sichinga told the House that the challenges on shortages of mealie meal were because of increased demand against inadequate milling firms in some areas.
He was expected to convene a meeting with some millers to find a lasting solution.
Meanwhile, mealie meal traders at Situlu area in newly created Sikongo district of Western province on the Zambia-Angola border have increased the price of the staple food by KR 20.
The increase is with effect from the third week of last February.
A 25 Kilogram bag of Breakfast that was costing KR 100 is now selling at KR 120 while a 25 Kilogram bag of Roller Meal that was costing KR 80 is costing KR 100.
A resident working in Situlu who declined to be named disclosed the development to ZANIS in Kalabo yesterday.
The Situlu resident said that the Mealie meal traders were taking advantage of hiking the price of the commodity in Situlu as the villagers have no maize to harvest since their crops were swept away by the early floods that hit the area this farming season.
The resident said that meanwhile some villagers who were not affording to buy the mealie meal were doing some piece works of weeding in cassava fields in Malundu area in the neighbouring Angola where their payment was either fresh or dried cassava.
He added that only a few villagers in Situlu who planted rice early were expected to harvest their crop this year.