Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) media and public relations manager Calvin Kaleyi has backed government’s move to export maize to the Democratic Republic of Congo, describing it as a positive development.

In an interview with News Diggers! Monday, Kaleyi said the Congolese needed Zambian commodities and, in return, Zambia needed the DRC’s money.

According to Agriculture Minister Michael Katambo, government is finalizing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for exports of maize and other crops.

“It is a very good move. It is a very positive development. This is what we have been waiting for because if you look at the agricultural commodities that are being sold to Congo and the amount of trade between Zambia and Congo, it is massive! So, [we have] been calling for the formalization of trade between the two countries. Instead of leaving it to the illegal traders to conduct the business, let that money be going towards the [government] coffers so that we earn the much needed forex (foreign exhange),” Kaleyi said.

“We needed this like yesterday. The Congolese need our food, we need their money. But we will not be in a hurry to plant or cultivate until we agree on certain issues, such as the price of the maize; how much will remain in the country; how much will be exported and so on. These are the small nitty-gritty [details] that we need to iron out. So, once this is ironed out, we are ready. But guarantees need to be there.”

And Kaleyi called on Zambian farmers to plant early maturing crops ahead of the predicted flash floods in the 2019/20 rainy season.

Last week, Minister of Transport and Communications Mutotwe Kafwaya said the 2019/2020 rainy season would cause floods in prone areas, resulting in damage to property and increased chances of disease burdens to humans, livestock and crops.

“We already called on farmers to plant early maturing crops. Even by the time, it is predicted that we are going to have flash floods, the crop would still be standing. So, this is what we have been calling on farmers to do. Plant early maturing crops or varieties and practice conservation agriculture. But the message that has been going out is: plant early maturing variety so that by the time the floods are done, the crop will already be standing. The sustainability of the crop will be firm. Our farmers are ready for this season, actually, they are happy that there will be rains. But they should be ready for the flash floods just in case there is a situation where they will be caught up,” said Kaleyi.

“We are calling for an urgent meeting with our farmers to discuss the modalities and these are the issues we are going to take to government and say ‘these are the things we want to be put in place before we venture into planting of early maize’.”