ZNFU Media and Public Relations Manager Calvin Kaleyi says it will be impossible for government to make agriculture the mainstay of the economy if they continue punishing farmers.

And Kaleyi has observed that agriculture will die in Zambia if government imposes a maize exports ban again this year.

Recently, Minister of Agriculture Dora Siliya said in reference to the partial drought the country is experiencing, that government would not hesitate to make tough decisions if need be, to ensure that the country is food secure.

But in an interview with News Diggers! Kaleyi observed that government would kill agriculture if they decided to ban maize exports.

“They want to put up tough measures by killing the farmer? Last season they banned the export of maize at the expense of the farmer. They allowed two companies to be exporting mealie meal. What about the producer of maize? Why do you want to punish the producer? Already we were given a bad [maize floor] price, again you want us not to export when there is good market out there? You want agriculture to die in this country so we start importing? Maybe that’s the direction they want us to go because farmers can not be producing when they continue making losses. We will leave agriculture and probably go to some other sector so that food is imported. Now which country has integrity if all your food is imported? Motivate the farmers,” he demanded.

Kaleyi said agriculture could not be the mainstay of the economy if government kept punishing farmers.

“Government has said that they want to make agriculture the mainstay of the economy. You can’t make agriculture the mainstay of your economy and then punish the producer. That’s not the way things work. As to whether they are going to put stringent measures so that farmers do not export and get a premium on their produce, that’s a sorry decision. Let the forces of demand and supply be at play and not have controls that are going to punish the farmers, no. As farmers we look forward to the day when we are going to make enough resources to invest in mechanisation, in irrigation equipment, to be able to invest in deep tanks so that we make agriculture realistically the mainstay of our country’s economy. As things stand the conditions dictate that we can not head that way,” he said.

Kaleyi observed that it would be difficult for the country to attain the 3.6 million metric tonnes for the previous farming season with the drought and the late distribution of inputs.

“The current situation is not very good. Some farmers did not access inputs on time. Some of them have only started redeeming now. This is end of January. Where are they going to plant, the planting window has passed. Time for putting fertiliser has passed. When are they going to apply fertiliser? How are they going to make a production that is going to ensure that the country does not starve? I can assure you that with the drought, delayed access to redeeming, it will be a big challenge for us to attain 3.6 million metric tonnes like we did last season. It will be extremely difficult. We will wait until harvest time so that the figures can speak for themselves. We don’t want to speak early, lest we are told that we are speaking ill,” said Kaleyi.