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April 27, 2008

Mozambique govt. to buy food commodities directly from farmers

International aid agencies and the Mozambican government are initiating a US1.4-million-dollar project to purchase food commodities directly from farmers associations to ensure more food production in the country.

Ken Davies, World Food Programme (WFP), representative in Mozambique said the programme would be implemented with farmers’ groups in five provinces. "We are trying to stimulate food production,’’ said Davies adding that the project would be run in phases.

WFP will partner with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad) and the Mozambican ministries of Agriculture and Industry and Commerce.

Davies said currently the organisations were finalising contracts with farmers to buy beans, and in the next farming season maize farmers would also benefit from the scheme.

The scheme comes at a time when Mozambique is increasingly facing food insecurity under a backdrop of increased prices due to the high costs of imports.

Mozambique imports 400,000 tons of wheat and 350,000 tons of rice each year.

Davies says the increase in the price of importing these food products affected the poor the most. "The middle class will be fine but they would have to pay more for food while the rural and urban poor would be the worst affected and will not afford to pay for basic food needs," he said.

Davies said while Mozambique had vast tracts of fertile land, the lack of development in the agricultural sector would mean the country would continue to have low food production.

The production capacity for Mozambique’s small scale farmers who grow their crops without fertilisers and expert knowledge from agricultural extension services, is only one and a half tons per hectare - among the lowest in Africa.

"Mozambique has rich land and if there was enough production in the agricultural sector the country would not import basic food stuffs like rice. The country must develop its agricultural sector," said Davies.

The Times SA

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