In a historical break with tradition, Mr. Joe Simachela, the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) board chairperson on 3rd December, 2017 was the guest of honor at the week- long Planning and Budget meeting for the Agency held at Cresta GolfView hotel in Lusaka.
A vivacious Chairperson who was accompanied by his deputy, Mrs. Dora Mutakwa Phiri, commended staff for a job well done in exceeding the target set for the year in the buying of maize. The FRA bought 510,000 MT against a Government set target of 477,000MT.
The chairperson said that this was a remarkable achievement because when the FRA announced its price of K60 per 50Kg bag of maize there was hue and cry from not least the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) who even went to the extent of labelling the Agency as “swindlers”.
The Board chairperson said that, clearly, the Agency enjoyed good will and trust from small scale farmers despite the dismal performance in farmer payments because of the integrity of its marketing modalities.
The chairperson acknowledged that 2017 was an eventful year because of, among other developments, the Government was very unambiguous in its policy direction on the price offer for maize and amount of stocks to be bought. Further, the Review of the FRA Act Chapter 225 of the Laws of Zambia was put in motion. Mr. Simachela praised the Agency for its commitment to the Review process and cited the well-organized Provincial consultative meetings and the open and free debate by stakeholders and high quality of submissions made. He also said that at the price of K60 it was very clear and unlikely that FRA would buy enough stocks because of the perceived competition from the private sector.
Meanwhile, the board chairperson has paid glowing tribute to FRA staff especially the regional workers for the sacrifices they made in ensuring that food security for the nation was guaranteed. He said that his tours of provinces was an eye opener as it gave him a feel of the environment in which the staff operated and the challenging circumstances they had to overcome with limited resources.
“For example, people take the eating of nshima for granted. They surely don’t know what it takes to have it on the table. That’s why in the past the nation experienced food riots because no one cared about the process”, he said.
Thankfully, the chairperson said, the current Government cares about the availability of food and food security generally hence its total commitment to the FRA. He said his priority was securing the grain which was bought and he urged staff never to relent in their efforts.
On the otherhand,the board vice-chairperson Mrs. Phiri also praised staff for a job well done so far and encouraged everyone to do more. She said that she totally sympathized with the working conditions of staff having been a senior member of staff in the Ministry of Agriculture at one time. She told staff that their rallying point is the Mission statement of the Agency.
“How many of us here can recite our Mission for example?” she challenged staff and the whole room went quiet.
She reminded staff that unless they could remember what the Mission committed them to do they would not do it effectively and efficiently.
The board chairperson ended his official opening remarks by encouraging staff to sacrifice more for the Nation. Later he posed for photographs with staff.