Saturday, April 26, 2008

Zambia not affected by rise in global food prices - Magande

Zambia not affected by rise in global food prices - Magande
By Chiwoyu Sinyangwe
Saturday April 26, 2008 [04:00]

ZAMBIANS must play down the question of escalating global food prices, finance minister Ng'andu Magande has said. Reacting to concerns by most stakeholders that increasing food prices might lead to political instability, Magande insisted that Zambia was not affected by the rise in global prices, saying the country's staple food was still adequate. He said the bulk of the food Zambia consumed was grown locally, saying he did not expect people to start demonstrating.

"There is no food shortage in the country. We have enough maize in the country that we even exported maize because there is plenty of it, we have a lot of sweet potatoes, sorghum. What food don't we have?" Magande asked. "I don't expect people in Zambia to start rioting in Cairo Road because there is no mealie-meal when we have so much maize around."

Asked to comment on the rise in other food prices like bread, Magande responded that Zambia still had a number of optional foods that its people could depend on. He explained that the soaring food prices had mainly been fueled by robust economic growth in China and India, Asia's economic powerhouses.

"Where people are having the problem of rising food prices are countries like Senegal in West Africa because actually they import about 80 per cent of what they eat. And when you have that condition, you are competing with China and India who are eating more because their middle class has developed. But for Zambia, we are not importing food.

In fact, if you look at the trends, it is only prices of rice and wheat that are shooting up and we don't consume much of that. So in terms of the ordinary Zambian who is in Kaputa or Monze, his food basket is not competing with Chinese or Indian demand.

"So that is how you should look at it and that's why I would like people in Zambia to play down the question of rising food prices. Which food prices are rising?

If you look at sweet potatoes, how, if you go to Kapiri Mposhi, why should sweet potatoes' price rise when we are not importing from anybody? So we are not competing with any one."

Rising food prices have sparked worldwide unrest and continue to threaten political stability.

Already some countries like Egypt have witnessed a number of riots over the doubling of prices of basic foods in a year.

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