The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has called on government to be consistent with its policy formulation and implementation on maize exports because inconsistencies have the potential to hamper the growth of the agricultural sector.

And Okech has urged government to create sound policies that will enable the private sector and financial institutions to invest in agricultural sector.

Commenting on government’s policy inconsistencies on lifting and reinstating maize export bans, FAO country representative George Okech Okech argued that the country’s borders should be left open to allow for exports.

“We should not be going into these adhoc policies where we decide that there is an export ban, there is an import ban… the policy should just be there, the borders should be open and we should be clear about it. It shouldn’t be inconsistent, otherwise, if we continue to be inconsistent about this policy ban or export and import ban, it will end up affecting us and it will end up affecting the region,” Okech observed in an interview in Lusaka.

And he noted that government should ensure that it created sound policies that would enable the private sector and financial institutions to invest in the agricultural sector.

“The government has a big role to play in legal frameworks, policy issues, ensuring that you have got sound policies that will enable the private sector and financial institutions to invest in agriculture. So, as the government also has the role to ensure that they provide incentives to the farmers so that they can be able to get involved in these programmes,” said Okech.

“First of all, you know in Africa, greatly over 70 per cent, 80 per cent of people, depend on agriculture and agriculture should be the mainstay of livelihoods so that’s why when we do not address the issues in agriculture then that really translates into poverty levels. If we want to really reduce the poverty levels in Africa, then we really have to address the issues of agriculture and the most important thing is to invest in agriculture. That’s why we are now telling financial institutions, the private sector, that we need to invest more in agriculture, that’s the only way we will get out of that poverty cycle.”

The Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ), among other stakeholders, recently bemoaned government’s continued policy inconsistency on lifting maize export bans and then subsequently reinstating them as hampering growth in the sector.

Earlier this year, government lifted the maize export ban, but quickly reinstated it less than two months later on fears of food insecurity.

However, despite the Ministry of Agriculture’s intervention, maize smuggling remains rampant at most of the country’s border points, triggered by the lucrative export market in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), among other areas within the region.