In this week’s article I have decided to share with you, esteemed readers, a new concept that I have called Statistic of the Month.
Statistic of the Month concept involves determination of a number which had a public interest and was newsworthy during the month.
In order to come up with this number, I carefully listened to public debates on radio and television; read newspapers during the month of July 2018 but bearing in mind that our public life is driven by significant moral and political disagreements.
These disagreements in views or opinions cannot simply be avoided by being relegated to the private sphere (Tollefsen, 2009).
Furthermore, matters not just of public importance may arise, but matters for the public, for the people of our nation to come to grips with so as to shape the course our future public policies.
Statistics of the Month of July 2018
Based on my records of national issue discourse, which I record every month, it is my great hour and privilege to announce that the statistic that I picked for the month of July 2018 was: THE FOOD RESERVE AGENCY (FRA) MAIZE PURCHASING PRICE OF K65 PER 50KG.
This is a very simple but a powerful statistic for both small-scale farmers and maize consumers. It shows how much income a farmer will get from FRA.
It affects over 1 million small-scale farmers and growing pressure on policy makers to address rural poverty among other things.
The price of K65 per 50kg translated to K1.30 per kg or K1,300 per metric tonne or about $130 per metric tonne.
For the 500,000 metric tonnes strategic food reserve, this amounted to K6, 500,000.
The obvious question that arises is: how did I pick on this one as statistic of the month?
The answer is that I used a number of criteria some of which were a number that had both rural and urban public interest and also newsworthy during the month of July 2018.
Here is an illustration of how this number had public interest and was newsworthy.
2.1 Various maize marketing stakeholders were raising concern as to when the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) would announce its maize purchasing price. On 20th July 2018 FRA finally announced that it would buy a 50 kilogram bag of maize at 65 Kwacha for the 2018 crop marketing season, which was a five kwacha increase from last year. The FRA said that in setting the designated crop prices, it had always adhered to the principle of holistic consultation of the key stakeholders in the agricultural sector in the crop marketing chain from production to consumption. The Agency announced that it would purchase maize within the confines of the 2018 National Budgetary allocation to FRA and would strive to mitigate all possible negative risks that could fuel consumer dissatisfaction on the price of the final product i.e. mealie meal. The announcement of the FRA maize purchasing price generated a lot of public debates among various stakeholders in maize marketing.
2.2 The National Union of Small Scale Farmers of Zambia said it expected the price to be 80 kwacha for a 50 kilogram bag of maize instead of 65 Kwacha. The Union felt that the price was low when considering various changes in the economy. The Union further expected that most farmers would look for alternative markets instead of the FRA and may abandon maize for other crops.
2.3 Some members of the public argued that if individuals were buying 50 kg of maize at 80 Kwacha, why would one waste time taking your hard-earned commodity to FRA at K65?
2.4 On 22nd July 2018 the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) reacted to the FRA announcement of the 2018 crop marketing arrangements and prices. The Union had produced production costs to guide farmers as they sell their crops. Furthermore, bulking and selling consolidated volumes is bound to attract a better price as opposed to selling individually. The Union found that the K65 per 50kg market price offered by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) absurd and horrendously low and in response to this they called for untampered functioning of market conditions and open borders. They urged government to maintain consistency in the export of agriculture commodities as the food balance sheet figures declared that a surplus of 341,313 metric tonnes could potentially be exported. In the opinion of the Union, this would motivate private sector participation in maize marketing when Government restates that Zambia is open for maize exports.
2.5 The President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, said government was going to revisit the maize price when he was addressing a rally to drum up support for the Patriotic Front (PF) Chipangali District Council Chairperson Candidate. The President said the K65 was not a very fair price. The President directed that the price should be reviewed and adjusted upwards.
2.6 On 27th July 2018, the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) responded to the President’s directive by increasing its maize purchasing price from K65 per 50 kg bag to K70. This is the current FRA maize purchasing price. FRA emphasised that this was the FRA price and not Government floor price. Hence, farmers were encouraged to negotiate for better prices with other market players.
Factors Influencing Maize Price
Ideally, factors influencing maize price are contained in the Guide to Maize Marketing for Extension Officers by Shepherd (1999) under the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). Sherpard (1999) states that maize price is influenced by (i) Supply, which is also influenced by how much maize farmers produce; how quickly they need cash; how much storage they have; the price they are offered for their maize;(ii) consumer demand, which is influenced by the price. A high price will make consumers reduce purchases and be more careful with what they do buy. A low price will encourage increased consumption, although consumers can only eat so much maize meal (iii) Trader demand, which is influenced by production levels in other parts of the country. Traders will prefer to buy in easily accessible areas. Demand for maize in other areas will thus be low until there is no more left in easy-to-reach areas; Production levels in neighbouring countries; Location (Distance from the market, Condition of the roads); Quantity of maize available; Extent of competition between traders; and Time of the Year.
characteristics of 65
As I conclude this article, on a lighter note, by mere coincidence the quoted statistic of 65 has a number of interesting mathematical features such as:
(i) 65 is the smallest integer that can be expressed as a sum of two distinct positive squares in two ways, i.e. 65 = 82 + 12 = 64+1 or 72 + 42 =49+16.
(ii) 65 = 15 + 24 + 33 + 42 + 51. It can be seen from the summation that the powers of numbers have been written in reverse order i.e. from 5 to 1, which is very interesting feature.
I hope to soon investigate the mathematical features of the number 70.
The concept of Statistic of the Month is new initiative in my The World of Statistics column to show how statistics can be used in our everyday lives in order to understand the world around us.
The selected statistic of 65 in this article tells us a story about an important issue of the month of July involving maize price in the context of debates about maize marketing, payments to farmers, mealie meal price etc.
I am already looking forward to Statistic of the Month for August and finally Statistic of the Year 2018.
Data collection is currently being done on everyday basis for this agenda to be achieved.

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