Technology to curtail unscrupulous traders - by Talent Ng’andwe


Lack of reliable information on availability of markets by small-scale farmers could soon become a thing of the past as the country gets ready to implement a United Nations (UN) web-based information system to various agriculture related institutions that will be providing such information.


CountrySTAT promises a sharp paradigm shift where the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and other public institutions will be more responsible and transparent in the provision of information of agriculture with a focus on production, prices, trade and consumption.


 According to a CountrySTAT newsletter, Zambia has been trying out an e-government model for close to three years.


According to the newsletter, Zambia and other African nations have invested heavily in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and these efforts were slowly bearing fruits, with more and more African nations embracing full-scale regulatory reform. 


The newsletter says it is in this regard that CountrySTAT, a web-based UN information system was coming on board to help compile data and help institutions like the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) send out set market prices and other information for various agricultural commodities.


 Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) Agriculture Economist Nachiluzyi Chuba said currently there was no reliable institution to determine crop prices. 


He gave an example of this season's floor price of maize as having been announced before the crop forecast figures were finalised. 


 Chuba said, despite Zambia having a free market system it still lacks a reliable information system resulting in rogue traders taking advantage of the lapse. 


Zambia has recorded a bumper harvest in maize production for the first time after 10 years but the country still lags behind in creating a platform for disseminating a standard floor price floor for the sale of the staple surplus maize, leaving room for unscrupulous maize traders to manipulate the price.


 Zambian authorities have dubbed the past farming season which recorded 2.7 million tonnes of maize as the most successful but year after year small-scale farmers complain of the lack of reliable and authoritative medium or platform to provide a platform to provide data on prices set country's grain marketing authority, the FRA.


Although the FRA buys maize in most parts of the country, the agency does not reach remote areas of the country due to bad roads and other challenges, a situation which forces farmers to succumb to the advances of traders who travel to remote areas to buy maize at very low prices and resell it to millers at very high prices.


 Lack of access to information by small-scale farmers can be overcome by putting up technological media to help farmers access information which is accurate and timely. 


He recommends that government institutions should quickly embrace CountrySTAT, because there is need to harness technology and promote the right to information.