* Sees 80 pct drop in commercial output
* Lower maize prices discourage farmers
LUSAKA, March 19 (Reuters) - Commercial maize production in Zambia will fall by about 80 percent in the 2011/2012 season compared with the previous crop season after farmers turn to more lucrative cash crops, the farmers’ union said on Monday.
Zambia’s commercial maize farmers produce a fraction of the national output compared to small-scale farmers.
“Maize output by commercial farmers will fall to 60,000 tonnes in 2012 from 350,000 tonnes harvested in 2011,” Zambia National Farmers’ Union spokesman Calvin Kaleyi told Reuters.
“The expected lower output is due to the fact that most commercial farmers have gone into soya beans and other crops with ready market and more attractive prices.”
Zambia’s maize production in the 2010/2011 season rose to over 3 million tonnes from 2.8 million tonnes in the 2009/2010 season, a crop forecast showed last year.
Kaleyi said although final maize production figures for small-scale farmers would only be known later this month after a survey, initial indications showed that output would reduce.
Erratic rainfall delayed planting of Zambia’s staple maize crop that feeds the impoverished southern African nation, raising the possibility of a poor harvest after several bumper seasons. (Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Olivia Kumwenda and Helen Massy-Beresford)