President Edgar Lungu says the surplus grain and depressed maize prices on the local market are major challenges in the agricultural sector.
Speaking when he officially opened the 112th ZNFU annual congress yesterday, President Lungu said if left unchecked, the challenges could incapacitate farmers and other value chain players.
“The theme for this year’s theme for the ZNFU annual congress which is ‘sustaining agriculture in shrinking markets’ is appropriate given our current agricultural marketing challenges as a result of surplus grain and depressed maize prices on the local market. These challenges if left unchecked could cause our farmers and other value chain players producing themselves out of market. Let me assure you that government remains focused on making the mainstay of our economy for enhanced household food security, poverty reduction and increased income generation for our citizens,” President Lungu said.
“Government is working hard to address the current crop marketing challenges to avoid slowing down the momentum of our economic diversification agenda. Agricultural development and food security will only be sustainable if food production is diversified, made more market oriented and profitable to all players in the value chains. In this regard, our agriculture, livestock and fisheries economic diversification agenda should be driven by improved productivity through the use of new technologies, timely payment and availability of inputs to farmers; predictable agriculture marketing policies to stabilise commodity prices and cutting down on input costs and promote value addition among other things.”
And President Lungu said with the stabilization in exchange rates and reduction of inflation to single digit, he had instructed the Bank of Zambia and Finance Minister Felix Mutati to work closely with financial market players to come up with measures to bring down interest rates.
“The PF government is determined to do more to remove other taxes on imported raw materials and in doing so, we will promote the sourcing of raw materials locally where possible, to encourage local production. My government has also fully opened up the smallholders fertilizer, seeds and agro-chemicals market by rolling out the farmer inputs support programme and electronic voucher system countrywide. Apart from giving farmers a diversified range of inputs, the FISP e-voucher will also promote competition among suppliers, a development which will empower farmers in decision-making, stabilise prices and reduce the cost of inputs over time,” said President Lungu.
“The cost of borrowing is another key factor driving the cost of production in Zambia and I can assure you that government is working towards lower interest rates. With the stabilisation in exchange rate and reduction in inflation to single digits, I have instructed the minister of finance and the bank of Zambia to work closely with financial market players to come up with measures to bring down interest rates.”
Meanwhile, ZNFU president Jervis Zimba said there was need for a speedy focus on addressing the many challenges that were retarding progress of diversifying the country’s economy to agriculture.
“The union has observed that the last farming season was not free of hiccups. Hence, there is a need for a speedy focus on addressing the many challenges that continue to retard progress. Let me state that currently the viability of farming in Zambia is at stake because of shrinking markets, hence the theme for this year’s annual congress. Your excellency, the challenges facing the Zambian agriculture market has continued to affect farmers negatively by exposing them to unfair competition due to the influx of imported products in the country. Apart from maize, all other commodities continue to experience unfair competition because of an influx in imported good,” said Zimba.