MINISTER of Fisheries and Livestock Professor Nkandu Luo has announced that government will soon ban the importation of deboned meat because “it is not fit for human consumption.”

And Prof Luo says Zambia will use the current partnership with other countries in the Saudi Arabia One Million Goat Project to learn best practices in the livestock sector.

Speaking when she featured on ZNBC Sunday Interview, Prof Luo said that the country should not encourage the eating of mechanically deboned meats because it was unhealthy.

“You know, this one is a very interesting debate. There is a group that comes to me and says, ‘Minister, if you stop the deboned meat, you are going to kill the poor people because this is what they are surviving on…’ then the big boys and girls are saying, ‘Minister, this de-boned meat is a problem.’ My attitude towards this is that we are stopping the importation of de-boned meat and the argument I have used is not whether it’s cheaper for anybody or the big boys are complaining, it’s unhealthy. When I came back from training as a microbiologist immunologist, we never saw cancer in our institutions. Today, when you go the UTH, the cancer hospital is full of patients and a lot of this has to do with some of the foods that we are eating,” Prof Luo said.

“And when I have analyzed this whole deboned meat, I don’t think that Zambia should encourage it because it is unhealthy and if people use it for dogs, maybe that’s what it’s fit for; it’s not fit for human consumption.”

When asked by show host Grevazio Zulu whether government would ban the importation of deboned meat, Prof Luo responded in the affirmative.

“[Yes] because it’s unhealthy. I am not listening to any of the voices because others are doing it because they think that it’s stifling their business and the poor people are saying, ‘what about us, this is what we are surviving on.’ I think the best argument is the health argument,” she replied.

But Prof Luo added that government could not impose a complete ban on the fish imports, except on Tilapia breams because they were widely produced locally.

“In Zambia, we have about 87,000 metric tonnes deficit of fish, but as at now, because of the work that has been done, when we do the statistics next year, we will then see how much we have developed and how much the deficit has come down. However, our thinking, as a Ministry, is that fish farming has attracted a lot of people and there are a lot of players. Our thinking is that we could probably have reduced the deficit by 50 per cent, but we can only talk about that data when we have done the analysis, that’s what we think. I think look at it this way, I think people must have choices of what they eat. You cannot have a total ban of fish imports because there are also exotic fish, but we can ban the Tilapia, which we do here, but there may be people who may want to bring in other exotic fish and we can allow them to bring in a little amount so that those who want choices like Crayfish and so on, because we don’t do Crayfish here so that we allow the industry to grow,” she said.

And Prof Luo wondered why some players were against the move to partner with other countries in the Saudi Arabia Goat export deal when it can be used as a learning process for best practices among neighbouring countries.

“Yesterday, or two days ago, I was reading an article written by somebody from the University of Zambia and they were analyzing a discussion I was having with the President of the Republic of Zambia (Edgar Lungu) when he visited the Rufunsa Livestock Centre. So, I was saying to him that because of the numbers that Saudi Arabia wants, we found that Zambia on its own could not sustain the market. So, the system we have used is, we are going to partner with our colleagues in Botswana, our colleagues in Namibia and now from a few days ago, Zimbabwe has also requested that they come into this partnership. So, this guy (Dr Chisoni Mumba) who wrote this article was basically criticizing us that how can we go and start partnering with Botswana and Namibia when in that place they have identification and traceability policies and so on. So, I was laughing when I read this article, why? Because in fact, this is something Zambia is doing and it is one of the areas of improvement that we are doing,” she said.

“And if I say look, ‘I can’t do it alone, let me partner,’ it’s in itself assisting that you are setting up saying, ‘I don’t have the capacity to do it alone, let me bring other players to play with us.’ So, we have set up certain systems. Now, in the Ministry, which we think are going to help us learn from how other people are doing things because once you partner with people, one of the benefits of partnerships is learning so that you improve your own status. It’s better late than never.”

She added that the country did not have a substantive livestock census report, hence the one to be conducted before the country can engage another market, which it will not be able to sustain.

“We do not have a substantive census, we do not understand the number of animals we have, we can only approximate. And this is why for the goat market, I had to say, ‘let’s not use what we have in terms of figures because we may not sustain the market and let us try and partner with those that already have good numbers so that in a month we can put it at 300,000, another 500,000, another one 200,000 and per month…’ we can sustain the one million. So, I think the numbers in a way are increasing so we need to capture all these numbers,” said Prof Luo.