Zambia’s Food Reserve Agency is set to vastly increase the capacity of its storage facilities to cope with much higher production volumes of maize. Report by Nawa Mutumweno.
The Food Reserve Agency (FRA) is to build 98 modern, covered sheds in all districts in the country in a record one year and two months to increase maize storage capacity and reduce the crop wastage that has beset Zambia season after season.
FRA’s executive director, Chola Kafwabulula announced that the state-owned organisation has embarked on a programme to improve its storage capacity by rehabilitating its disused grain silos, construct seven new grain silos and complete and upgrade the 98 hard-standing slabs into complete sheds.
“The FRA project to build the 98 sheds follows a contract signed by the Agency in July 2013 with Advanced African Solutions of the US, which will cost over $54m, which has been sourced by the government. This new project aims to add over 450,000 metric tonnes capacity which will bring the total of covered storage to over 1m metric tonnes when the project ends, although FRA’s ultimate target is 2m metric tonnes,” Kafwabulula said. The minimum capacity of each shed will be either 3,000 or 5,000 metric tonnes.
The FRA programme to improve its storage capacity will also include rehabilitation and construction of new grain silos in selected places. Silos to be rehabilitated are in Ndola, Kabwe, Chisamba, Kitwe and Monze. In addition, seven new grain silos will be constructed.
“The Agency commenced the process for the rehabilitation of the Ndola and Kabwe grain silos with a capacity of 22,500 metric tonnes each. The engineering design works have been completed and the procurement process to engage contractors to rehabilitate the two grain silos has also been completed. The contractor has been selected and the agency is in the process of signing the works contract with the contractor. The works are expected to commence any time from now,” he elaborated.
The Ministry of Finance has approved proposals from two Chinese firms, AVIC International and CAMC Engineering Company, to construct the seven grain silos.
This will involve financing, designing and building the seven new silos under Chinese concessional loans. Negotiations with the two firms are at an advanced stage and contract signing is imminent. The project is expected to commence before the end of this year.
The contract with Advanced African Solutions stipulates both environmental concerns and the contractor’s commitment to complete the project to FRA’s satisfaction. “The contractor shall, in so far as reasonably possible, take all reasonable steps to protect the environment (both on and off the sites) and to limit damage and nuisance to people and property, resulting from pollution, noise or other nuisances caused as a result of its operations,” Kafwabulula pointed out.
Over the years, FRA has been under immense pressure to increase maize storage space, especially following the amendment of the FRA Act in 2005 to include crop marketing. Prior to that amendment, for instance, the agency was able to securely store the purchased crop due to low quantities bought then.
For example, up to 2005, storage capacity of 623,700 metric tonnes was adequate. Hence, following the amendment of the Act in 2005, FRA expanded its operational network, and this brought with it a huge challenge to create more maize storage space immediately.
This led to an exponential rise in the quantity of maize purchased by the agency – from 105,279 metric tonnes in 2004/05 to a high of 1,751,660 metric tonnes in 2011/12. This represented an increase in purchases of more than 16 times or a staggering 1,564%. However, between 2006 and 2012 the storage capacity increased to only 743,200 metric tonnes or an increase of only 19% on the overall secured storage capacity.
Currently, the agency has covered storage capacity of slightly over 750,000 metric tonnes, which has been well below the storage requirements as the country posted bumper harvests averaging 2m metric tonnes in the past three seasons.
As a result of increased maize production in the country over the years, the FRA has been forced to store harvested maize in the open on either concrete slabs or on wooden logs and covered with tents. This has been far from ideal and resulted in considerable damage to the food.