ZAMBIA National Farmers’ Union public relations manager Kakoma Kaleyi has accused Shoprite of ignoring local producers by suggesting that there is a countrywide shortage of onions on the local market.

Recently, Shoprite country general manager Charles Bota said all their stores had run out of onion, countrywide, arguing that local farmers only managed to meet demand in terms of quality and volume during the onion season.

But in a statement, Friday, Kaleyi said the country was awash with onions and that some had even gone to waste in storage facilities due to continued importation despite the ban.

“The report attributed to Shoprite of alleged countrywide shortages of onions on the local market is not only most unfortunate, but totally misleading. The Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) wishes to put it on record again that the country is awash with onions from both small scale and some large-scale farmers some of which have gone to waste in storage facilities due to continued importation of the commodity even at the time when government has ordered a stop to onion importation. Shoprite is simply ignoring local producers,” he said.

“We are saddened to report that data shows that onion imports peaked in the period January to March 2022, hence disadvantaging local producers who have painstakingly put in a lot of effort and strides, including making staggering investments in driers, which allows for onions to be harvested during late winter then dried, stored, and made available during the lean period which starts in January every year.”

Kaleyi observed that the halting of onion imports had not been received well by some sector players in the value chain.

“We are alive to the fact that the halting of imports of onions has not been received well by some sector players in the value chain who have all along favoured imports at the expense of appreciating the strides the local farmers have made to stop the over reliance on imports. We are afraid to note that the continued importation of commodities that we have a comparative advantage of is tantamount to economic sabotage and is weighing down all the good intentions being put in place by Government and farmers to ensure we have improved capacities. The ZNFU shall not sit back and watch entities bent on proliferating imports arm-twist government into succumbing to notions that the country is experiencing commodity shortages,” said Kaleyi.

“We rise to applaud government for regulating imports of onions because this is the trajectory that will make various sub-sectors of the agriculture sector become net producers of commodities that we can produce locally. Zambia has plenty of onions.”