Grain traders have urged government to maintain Zambia’s open-border policy to ensure the country still remains competitive regionally, especially in in view of reduced maize output this year.

And the Grain Traders’ Association of Zambia say they are lobbying government to have the 10 per cent duty on maize exports scrapped to provide much-needed relief.

GTAZ executive director Chambuleni Simwinga said there was need for government to maintain the open-border policy to facilitate maize exports to regional markets.

“We would want the government to maintain the open-border still so that we are able to trade like as we have always traded since the [maize export] ban was lifted,” Simwinga said in an interview with News Diggers!

“The only thing that is worrying is that, when you have such a low [maize] figure forecasted, it is now an issue of management, they have to manage the waste because it is not a guaranteed figure. So, recently, we had some rains, we don’t know how much has gone to waste; it is more to do with reducing wastage so we have to concentrate on [that] as a country.”

He noted that grain traders remain competitive regionally, but advised against inconsistent supply of maize to the regional market resulting from export bans, which affects trust from buyers in the region.

“We are competitive, we will be. The only issue is; do buyers in other countries trust us? That’s the issue. Like Zimbabwe, and even Congo [DR]; they worry when they make payments for maize to be supplied, suddenly, there is a [maize] ban. It is an issue of trust with the buyers. Otherwise, we are still competitive in terms of pricing in the region,” he observed.

And Simwinga added that grain traders are actively lobbying the Ministry of Finance to remove the 10 per cent duty on maize exports ahead of the 2019 national budget.

The export duty at the rate of 10 per cent on maize came into effect on January 1, 2017, but grain traders have been lobbying government to reverse it since.

He expressed optimism that Finance Minister, Margaret Mwanakatwe, will reverse the 10 per cent duty on maize exports in next year’s budget.

“Definitely! We see a change because ZNFU has lobbied and we have also done the lobbying; we will do a presentation together with ZNFU for it to be removed. Because, really, you cannot tax an export, we are getting revenue from that by selling the maize. We pay corporate tax; very soon we will start paying the [National Health] Insurance Bill that they have brought. I mean, it’s just killing us,” Simwinga lamented.

“Otherwise, I am very optimistic that it will be dropped.”

He explained that grain traders have been trying to get the export duty scrapped, but failed with previous Finance Minister, Felix Mutati.

“We are paying, it’s just that there is nothing much you can do; we have had discussions and discussions; Mr. Mutati never adjusted anything. More especially, this time, I think they [government] will be strict on that in that there is a low yield, so I am sure they will be a bit hard on that,” said Simwinga.