* To double maize reserves to 1 mln T
* Aims to keep prices low
LUSAKA, Aug 20 (Reuters) - Zambia will double its strategic maize reserves to 1 million tonnes and limit exports to keep prices of the staple food low as global grain prices surge, the minister of agriculture said on Monday.
“Instead of buying 500,000 tonnes of maize as strategic reserves we will increase that to 1 million tonnes so that we are in control of the situation,” Emmanuel Chenda told Reuters.
The boosting of the strategic reserves through locally purchased maize would take place in four months from July to October this year, he said.
Chenda also said that the government will centralise the issuance of maize export permits to closely monitor sales outside the country. Zambia exports maize to countries within Africa, including South Africa.
Benchmark global corn prices hit their highest in more than a week on Monday, as the U.S. grain belt’s worst drought in 56 years kept concerns about tightening global supplies in sharp focus.
The price of maize in Zambia is currently around 65,000 kwacha ($13.27) per 50 kg bag.
Zambia’s maize output declined by about 6 percent to 2.8 million tonnes in the 2011/2012 season from 3 million tonnes last year.
Chenda said, however, Zambia still had a huge maize surplus because of carry-over stocks from last year but would be careful to ensure that local prices remained under control.
$1 = 4900.0000 Zambian kwachas Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Anthony Barker