The Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) says the 3.6 million tonnes of maize recorded this year is the highest in the country’s history.

And ZNFU president Javis Zimba says the lifting of the maize export ban by government has come a little too late after the country has lost control of its regional market.

ZNFU media liaison officer Calvin Kaleyi told News Diggers! in an interview that Zambia has never harvested this amount of maize before.

“This is the highest figure we have had since 1961 and the closest that we came to this, was in 2014 when we recorded 3.351 million tonnes of maize,” said Kaleyi.

“In 2009 we recorded 1.89 million tonnes, in 2010 we recorded 2.8 million, in 2011 we had 3 million tonnes, 2012 we did 2.85 million, in 2013 we did 2.5 million, in 2014 we had 3.35 million, in 2015 we did 2.6 million and in 2016 we recorded 2.8.”

And Zimba said it was unfortunate that the government took too long to lift the maize export ban.

“While we applaud government for lifting the ban on maize grain exports and restriction of maize movement within the country, this gesture, however, has come at the last hour when we have lost control of some of the markets in the region. We had the opportunity during the just ended season to stamp our presence on the regional markets, but the ban and restrictions allowed this to slip through our hands,” Zimba said.

“The ZNFU is calling on government to immediately remove the 10% export tax on maize. The removal of the 10% export tax will help avoid farmers being paid poor prices and will make Zambian maize more competitive on the regional markets. We should be cognizant of the fact that other countries; South Africa, Malawi and Zimbabwe, are also expectant of a bumper harvest and will look to the region for their exports. Maintaining the export tax will disadvantage the Zambian crop on the regional markets.”

He however expressed gratitude to the farmers for the hard work.

“We wish to thank the Zambian farmers for the production of 3.6 million metric tonnes of maize and 351, 416 metric tonnes of soya beans. This is despite; delayed inputs distribution, escalated input costs, and Army worms attack on some of our crop. We also wish to applaud government for lifting the export ban on maize and intra-country maize movement restrictions. This is as it ought to be,” Zimba said.

“The maize and soya beans surplus harvest comes at the back of our hardworking farmers who exhibited tenacity even in the wake of delayed inputs, increased costs of inputs and an outbreak of the fall army worms and red locusts’ invasion. This is the seriousness that our farmers attach to matters of food security at household, national and regional levels.”

Zimba further urged government through the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) and the private sector, to pay farmers economically viable prices for them to continue building on the production momentum.

“ZNFU wishes to enviably urge government, through the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) and the private sector, to pay our farmers economically viable prices for them to realistically continue to build on to this production momentum. It will be sad for farmers to be paid a pittance after scoring such momentous harvests,” said Zimba.

“We also urge our farmers to look out for unscrupulous traders and ascertain whether the scales being used are properly calibrated when selling their maize to avoid being duped, and so that they get a premium out of their sweat. And to ensure that we build on to this achievement, the ZNFU also wishes to beseech government to start preparing for the 2017/2018 farming season by starting to prepare for the E-voucher roll out now.”