Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Zambia has opportunity to become major maize supplier - Mwale
By Kabanda Chulu
Mon 02 Sep. 2013, 14:00 CAT

THE private sector and commercial farmers are willing to invest in the produ-ction of maize if government removes the uncertainties that surround the staple crop, says Grain Traders Association of Zambia executive director Jacob Mwale.

And Zambia Export Growers Association chief executive officer Luke Mbewe says multiplicity of standards and the high cost of air freight to export markets are negatively affecting the horticultural sector in the country.

During a panel discussion after the launch of the Southern African Agricultural Development Partnership Platform for Zambia under the theme 'innovative approaches to increased private sector participation in agriculture development', Mwale said Zambia had the opportunity of becoming a major supplier of maize in the region.

"We are capable of becoming a reliable supplier of non-GMO grains but government should put in place clear policies that will help farmers to plan in the long term, for instance, government should allow commercial farmers to grow and export maize because currently 90 per cent of maize is produced by small-scale farmers, so commercial farmers will grow for export and this will not affect the country," Mwale said.

"We talk about potential and opportunity but nothing is happening. Imagine we have the agriculture credit Act enacted in 2010 but government doesn't want to implement it…why? Actually, it is these uncertainties that have forced commercial farmers to stay away."

Zambia Women in Agriculture chairperson Cecilia Makota said there must be a discretionary way of dealing with rural women farmers.

"Many of them don't know the issue of standards but they produce more and quality crops," she said.

And Mbewe said stringent sanitary and phytosanitary standards and import restrictions were some of the major barriers to trade in the horticultural sector.

"There is lack of harmonisation on international standards such that our members face similar processes when exporting the produce and also the high cost of certification to standards, especially for small-scale farmers who need technical support," he said.

Earlier, agriculture permanent secretary Siazongo Siakalenge said the partnership had given an opportunity to the government and the private sector to jointly develop and plan strategies on the future of Zambia's agribusiness.

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