The Food Reserve Agency in Kapiri Mposhi has closed some of its satellite depots following resistance by small-scale farmers in supplying maize to the agency.

FRA staff interviewed recently said that management decided to close some of its depots after the agency started recording low supply of the commodity in most of its outlying points this marketing season.

The sources disclosed that most farmers in Kapiri Mposhi had decided to sell their farm produce to private buyers because the government was not paying them on time.

Sources further explained that the decision to close some satellite depots was one of the intervention measures meant to cut the FRA wage bill.

“We have been facing challenges in this 2016 maize marketing season. We have not been able to collect enough maize stocks in our satellite depots because most farmers opted to sell their farm produce to private buyers such as millers and brewers, who have been able to pay these farmers hard cash. Most small-scale farmers are saying that they cannot sell their maize to FRA at K85 per 50 kg bag when some private buyers are able to buy the same quantity of maize at K90 to K95. They’re saying that even if they sell their maize to FRA at that floor price [K85], government has not been paying them on time,” explained the FRA source.

“The number of bags of maize collected since July in most satellite depots in Kapiri Mposhi is less than 300 bags per satellite depot. The highest collection made so far is about 1,500 bags; whereas our colleagues in Mkushi or Serenje districts have already collected in the range of 21, 000 to 30,000 bags. And according to the FRA establishment, each satellite depot is supposed to have two security guards and one depot clerk. Three people are supposed to be manning the FRA satellite depot. For management, the wage bill that FRA has been incurring is unnecessary; to them these are unnecessary costs.”

And some depot clerks talked to lamented that the decision by FRA management to lay off workers was against the ruling Patriotic Front government’s pledge to create employment.

“The decision to retrench workers that have been working in Kapiri Mposhi FRA satellite depots is against the spirit of the PF government of job creation for youths,” the FRA source lamented. “Most of us have been declared jobless.”

When contacted for a comment, Kapiri Mposhi district commissioner Peter Mwiinde said he would issue a comprehensive statement at an appropriate time as he was out of the district by press time.