FISHERIES and Livestock Minister Professor Nkandu Luo says the delay in the exportation of goats to Saudi Arabia has been caused by COVID-19, among other factors.

And Prof Luo says Zambia will be a food basket for Africa if the PF manifesto is fully implemented.

Speaking during the PF interactive forum, Sunday, Prof Luo said although the exportation of goats to Saudi Arabia had stalled, government was looking at alternative markets from among neighbouring countries.

“I want to talk about the exportation of goats to Saudi Arabia. I have been sitting in the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock for almost two years. I don’t know how many people I have answered within the media over the export of goats to Saudi Arabia. I have even said that can we not only look at Saudi Arabia, but look at what the Ministry is doing in relation to the nearby countries. The reason why I have put that is because at the time this decision to export goats to Saudi Arabia, there is a lot of things that you needed to do. First of all, you need to understand that Saudi Arabia does not eat meat that is killed the way we kill our meat. Theirs is halal, so for us to be able to export because they told us we should not export the live goats, but carcasses. So this must be killed halal. Now this is not a practice that is very common in Zambia. So, we now had to find abattoirs that would kill the animals for us halal. One of the decisions that was made was that they themselves will come to Zambia to inspect those abattoirs,” Prof Luo said.

“When they came the first time to inspect those abattoirs, they raised certain concerns. So, we had to deal with those concerns until we came up with two abattoirs. In line with this, we had to make sure that goats are available. That is why some of the provinces and districts you will find that we have actually built livestock market centres where all the goats now can be aggregated. We also had to do a market research to say it is possible for us to export a million goats given the fact that Zambians did not warm up to livestock farming a lot. So, the system we put together because Saudi Arabia did not just ask Zambia, they also asked Botswana, they also asked Namibia, they also asked Zimbabwe, we decided that the four countries will be aggregating each time we are sending, we send a million as a package. So all that has been done. Just now when we are expecting people from Saudi Arabia to come to Zambia to inspect our final inspection, came COVID-19. We as Zambia have no control over the restrictions that have happened on flights all over the world. It is not only Zambia suffering, it is everybody who is suffering the restriction of transportation. So this is what has held our hand.”

And Prof Luo said if the 2021 to 2026 PF manifesto was implemented, Zambia was poised to be a food basket for Africa.

“Our critics in the past have criticised the Patriotic Front that we have been building a lot of infrastructure, in particular they have criticised us for the roads and they have said ‘they are building roads, will people eat roads?’. You cannot talk about agriculture without the road infrastructure. You cannot talk about agriculture without rail infrastructure, neither can you talk about agriculture without air infrastructure. When you look at Zambia, why this manifesto is very important is because of the fact that this country without road infrastructure and rail infrastructure then we are not doing anything. This is why our infrastructure chapter is very clear because we are the only country anywhere which is bordered by eight countries physically. So, you can imagine the decision that PF made to link Zambia, what that means for agriculture, because we have to export our products and we have to import our products. So road, air, rail infrastructure is critical to all this,” she said.

“This is why we want to build on the success that we have done for us to be able to move agriculture to the level where it is going to be. Even some of our critics when they speak ‘here I don’t have a road’, why? Because all of us are appreciating the importance of having a good road. So, our agriculture sector will only flourish if we build on our achievements in terms of road and rail infrastructure. We have to continue the transformation agenda for this country, so that we can draw other economies of other countries. Other countries will be coming here to say they would like us to export some fish to them. So we will be drawing our economy out into those countries. Zambia is poised, if this manifesto is implemented to the book, is poised to be a food basket for Africa. Zambia is poised to be a transport hub for Africa. Zambia is poised to be an industrialised country. For me, I am calling upon Zambians to read the PF manifesto.”