THE Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) has called on government to intensify protection of local produce by restricting food imports to only what cannot be grown within.

In an interview, ZNFU media and public relations manager Calvin Kaleyi said while government’s decision to restrict onion and table potato imports into the country was welcome, there were still other imported produce that needed to be curtailed to stop disadvantaging the local market.

“I think government acted very well. You know, we have had situations where as a country we are producing adequate produce during certain times of the year where the country has adequate onions, potatoes, but you will see the importation still go on. Obviously, countries like South Africa will produce agricultural products at much cheaper prices than here because our cost structure is much higher. So, you find that traders will go and import onions and potatoes, but they are disadvantaging the local market,” Kaleyi said.

“When we are at the peak of production, there is no need for us to import potatoes, there is no need for us to import onions because the market has already got them. But if you bring in cheaper onions and potatoes, it means that you disadvantage the local producers. Now, what that does is that when you import, you are actually strengthening the economies of those countries you are importing from and at the same time, you are killing the local market; you are killing the earnings of the local market; you are killing the growth of the local market. So, the decision that was made was made decisively and yes, we know that there are months that we fall short, but government has to be commended because we have to protect our local industry.”

Kaleyi insisted that government needed to protect local industries by restricting food imports to what could not be grown in Zambia.

“There are also other products, fruits and vegetables such as pineapples; Mwinilunga produces a lot of pineapples that we even fail to consume; most of the pineapples go to waste, but you find that we still import pineapples. So, we need to start looking within ourselves if we have to be self-sustaining on almost all the agricultural products. We need to start thinking ‘Zambia,’ our friends are already doing that. They are protecting their industries, they are protecting their agricultural sectors by ensuring that certain products like for instance, our milk at a certain point couldn’t enter other countries, some of our neighbouring countries were refusing milk from Zambia and yet there are certain trade protocols that we have signed with them, but they protect their economies by ensuring that those products don’t land on their shelves, why shouldn’t we do the same? We should learn to protect our industries, we should learn to see that our country grows…Unless it’s a product that we cannot produce in Zambia, unless that product is not produced in Zambia,” advised Kaleyi.

Government announced a major policy decision to restrict imports of onions and table potatoes into Zambia because supply within the country is currently satisfying local demand.