Commerce PS angers ZNFU over vegetable imports

The Zambia National Farmers Union has demanded for the resignation of Commerce Permanent Secretary Kayula Siame saying she does not understand her job.

ZNFU boss Jervis Zimba told Diggers! in an interview that Siame is incompetent in the discharge of her duties because she was ignoring President Lungu’s call to promote agriculture diversification through local farmers.

This week government announced its reverse to the recently-imposed ban on the importation of vegetables and fruits to honour the COMESA protocols guideline on regional agricultural products.

“So whoever is going to be blocking this thing is an enemy of the farmers. And I want to ask you a question, when the President was saying he wants agriculture to be diversified he knew what he was talking about, now who is the boss herself or the President, the role of a PS is to be a principal advisor; has she done her job correctly by advising or she is against the President, so who is the boss between the two?” he wondered.

“So we are demanding that if she is not with the farmers then it means she is an enemy of the farmers, so as a result yesterday we demanded that she steps down, she doesn’t know what she is doing.”

Zimba said it was disappointing that even after Agriculture Minister Dora Siliya agreed to allow local farmers produce cash crops the ban on imported fruits was lifted to honour COMESA.

“We as the farmers and the union have been asking for diversification, how do we diversify agriculture because the issue of just growing maize, cotton and soybeans cannot be rightful for the people, farmers need the cash crop, therefore when we heard that the President wants the agricultural sector to be diversified we sat with all district stakeholder last year in November. We produced a comprehensive report which we presented to our line minister Dora Siliya to say these items should be declared under the sensitive list because the farmers can produce,” he said.

“I will give you an example we are able to grow our own watermelon right throughout the year but because there is no market people grow it seasonally when they want, butternuts, carrots; are these the ones you want to be importing when the farmers can actually be producing, so we sat down, we talked to her and then she agreed that look the only way we can diversify is through that way. But from nowhere we are getting the permanent secretary who is supposed to protect the interest of the country now, instead of her going to advise the minister to say ‘if you want things to be protected this is the route you should go’ what does she do, she just says ‘the ban still stands’ now is that the way to go?.”

Zimba said farmers want the share of the US$42 million which government was spending annually on importation of fruits and vegetables in honoring the COMESA protocols.

“We are now looking at why should government be spending the US$42 million on fruits and vegetables wasting foreign exchange which we ourselves want a share of to come through to the Zambia economy, now how do you remove poverty, can you imagine if even US$30 million goes to our own rural small scale farmers can you imagine how the poverty levels will reduce,” he said.

“How do farmers feel that they had an opportunity to try and save mother Zambia and also be exporting, we also know that certain foods like pears and apples are not grown easily in Zambia because of the weather we know those ones but there are others surely, can’t you grow butternut, you can’t grow carrot behind your door step?”

He said it was disappointing that Zambia continued being a dumping ground for foreign product.

         

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