President Edgar Lungu says Zambia is anticipating a number of food security threats arising from the prolonged dry spells in the 2018/2019 farming season, which has affected crop and livestock production.

And Lungu has called on farmers to quickly offload their maize to the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to beef up the country’s food reserves.

Speaking when he officiated at the groundbreaking ceremony to mark the beginning of construction works on the Chiansi Irrigation Project in Chanyanya, Kafue District, Tuesday, President Lungu said the country faced food security threats on account of the prolonged dry spells in the 2018/2019 farming season, which affected crop and livestock production.

He, however, assured that government had put up measures aimed at mitigating the situation.

“My government is anticipating a number of food security threats, but I wish to assure the nation that we have put in place measures aimed at mitigating the situation to safeguard the national food security. We cannot take climate change lightly as it is threatening the livelihoods of farmers and national food security and, ultimately, the growth of the agriculture sector. Therefore, my government’s decision to introduce irrigation schemes across the country would boost productivity in the agriculture sector, thereby, enhancing food security at household and national levels,”President Lungu said.

“In the 2018/2019 agriculture season, the country experienced prolonged dry spells, especially in the southern half of the country. This affected the production of most crops and livestock. All this is due to climate change, which requires concerted efforts to combat. My government will not allow a situation where the affected people have no access to maize and mealie meal supply. As such, we are currently distributing relief food to the affected hunger stricken areas.”

And President Lungu called on all the farmers to sell their maize to the FRA to enable government beef up its strategic reserves.

“Let me take this opportunity to engage farmers to sell their maize to FRA for us to beef up our security reserves. As government, we are closely monitoring the mealie meal prices and I will not condone anyone; whether trader or miller, to take advantage of the anticipated food security threats by exploiting Zambians through unwarranted hiking of mealie meal prices. The demand for the maize grain this year has constrained supply and has led to stiff competition in maize prices resulting in increased mealie meal prices. It is misplaced to politicize the issue of mealie meal prices as the matter affects every Zambian, regardless of their political affiliation,” said President Lungu, adding that the country had sufficient maize stocks to meet both industrial and human consumption.

The Chiansi Irrigation Infrastructure Development Project has the potential to irrigate up to 1,800 hectares of land and will benefit up to 1,000 households, according to the Head of State.