THE Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) has announced plans to transform Zambia’s agriculture sector by promoting exports, which include the export of medicinal cannabis, and promotion of climate resilient agricultural practices.

According to the plan, launched by President Edgar Lungu last Thursday, measures including implementing appropriate legislation and systems for the promotion and export of medicinal cannabis by June, 2021, among others, will be crafted to revive the economy.

“In line with the 7NDP, agriculture will continue to be a key driver of growth and job creation for the Zambian economy. To this end, government will continue implementing policies to enhance production and productivity in the crops, fisheries and livestock sub-sectors. The focus will be to transform the sector to promote exports by encouraging private sector participation and promotion of climate resilient agricultural practices. Crop production will be enhanced by increasing yields and diversifying away from maize to other crops including tree crops. Aquaculture development has also been identified as a priority industry, which is expected to lead to import substitution, thereby resulting in foreign exchange savings,” read the ERP in part.

“In addition, the promotion of the livestock industry will result in job creation and stimulate exports, especially to neighbouring countries and greenfield markets (goat exports to Saudi Arabia, honey and wax exports to China, South Korea and Europe). The ERP will address challenges that the agriculture sector has faced including low productivity, high dependence on rain-fed agriculture, limited crop diversity and restrictions on agriculture exports. In addition, it will also address resource allocation, which has not been in line with the key drivers of growth for the sector, such as extension services and research and development. To revive growth and promote diversification, the following measures will be undertaken: promotion of domestic and international markets; increase agricultural exports; develop a marketing and export policy by mid-2021; facilitate private sector export agreements for maize, maize products and other agricultural commodities with bilateral partners in the region and facilitate private sector participation by 2022.”

The plan highlighted other key measures such as implementing legislation for the promotion and export of medicinal cannabis by June, next year, while increasing agricultural exports of honey, goats and fish also due to be undertaken.

“Develop a credible information system on stock position and movement for agricultural commodities by mid-2021; enhance exports of goats, honey, wax and fish in collaboration with the private sector through the establishment of trade centres at the borders of DRC and Angola, and operationalisation of trade agreements; increase agricultural productivity; deploy ICT’s for the delivery of extension services by the end of 2021 by setting up a national call centre; promotion of tree crop; promotion and export of industrial hemp and medicinal cannabis; put in place appropriate legislation and systems for the promotion and export of industrial hemp and medicinal cannabis by June, 2021; shift resources to key drivers of agriculture. Energy is the principal enabler for restoring growth and achieving economic diversification in the medium-term. During the ERP, government will continue implementing reforms to improve efficiency and transparency as well as enhance the sector’s support to growth,” stated the ERP.

“The reform programme will include policy on management of arrears in the energy sector to ensure sustainability. The reforms will also include revision of pricing mechanisms in the petroleum sub-sector that will take into account external factors, such as exchange rate fluctuations to ensure full cost recovery. The coverage of the social protection programmes across the country, however, remains low due to the small size of the formal sector and inadequate social safety nets for the poor. This undermines government’s efforts to reduce poverty, vulnerability and inequality. The economic recovery programme will encompass provision of social protection to safeguard people from the adverse impacts of the economic slowdown as well as the health emergency posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The major focus will be to enhance social assistance, livelihoods and empowerment; protection, social security, social health insurance, and support to persons with disabilities.”