It is a well-known fact that agricultural exports have the potential to improve rural livelihoods and boost the country’s export earnings leading to increased crop production and wealth creation to farmers as they are assured of a ready available market to sell their farm produce.
Countries such as Botswana and South Africa are considered to be one of the developed countries in Africa due to beef and other agricultural products they export to various countries across the world.
For this reason government reaffirmed its commitment to supporting agricultural exports in order to create jobs and raise income levels for the farmers in the country.
The President of Zambia Edgar Lungu observed the need to invest in irrigation schemes to ensure that farmers produce more crops for both export and local consumption.
Speaking during the 114th Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) Annual Congress held in Lusaka President Lungu said farmers deserve support such as incentives which will help them produce more crops for international market.
“Investments in irrigation are no longer optional but a must therefore, farmers deserve support such as incentives so as to yield good and quality products for the local, regional and international market,” said Dr. Lungu.
Dr. Lungu said climate change has negatively affected crop productivity hence the need for farmers to adopt smart agriculture technologies such as conservation farming that will increase their crop production.
“My government realizes that the vagaries of climate change are real. This calls for us to take a paradigm shift by ensuring that farmers adopt smart technologies aimed at mitigating climate change challenges and boosting productivity,” said Dr. Lungu.
The Head of State said his government is aware of various challenges that are affecting the farming communities and will do everything possible to address them.
“Farmers are equally faced with electricity supply deficit which is causing constant load shading hence disrupting farming activities which are driven by Hydro Power. I therefore direct the Minister of Energy to expedite the importation of electricity so as to supplement farming communities as well as other sectors,” said Dr. Lungu.
Mr. Lungu said Load shading will be the thing of the past as government is making efforts to diversify energy through promotion of solar power to avoid over dependence on hydroelectricity alone.
“Government has been making frantic efforts to diversify energy for us to avoid relying only on hydro power. ZESCO, the power utility company is also directed to complement hydro power with solar power by June 2019 so that load shading is permanently consigned to history,” said Dr. Lungu.
Dr. Lungu stressed the need to improve the agriculture sector as it is the key to improving household and national food and Nutrition security and can lead to the economic development of the country.
He said government will continue to support farmers who are into early maize production in order to meet the local and international demand.
Dr. Lungu has observed the need for farmers to venture into crop diversification so as to sustain the agriculture sector and mitigate effects of climate change.
He has called on all players in the agriculture sector to actualize the pronouncements made to ensure that the country is food secure and supply to other countries such as the Democratic republic of Congo (DRC).
Dr. Lungu has reassured government’s commitment to improve the agriculture sector through road infrastructure programmes to ensure that agriculture commodities are smoothly transported to their respective markets.
“Our unwavering commitment is conspicuous in the infrastructure programme where unprecedented road development has been laid out across the country. With a good road network in urban and rural areas growth in the agriculture sector should now be seen because agro produce is easily being transported to their destination,” said Dr. Lungu.
He has assured Livestock farmers in the country to be calm as government is working round the clock to address some challenges being faced in the livestock sector such as foot and mouth disease (FMD) and animal theft.
Dr. Lungu said his government will continue to put in measures aimed at improving the livestock sub-sector as it has the potential to enhance people’s livelihood.
“Let me assure our livestock farmers that my government is working round the clock to address animal diseases and rampant stock theft which have continued to reverse the gains made by livestock farming community,” said Dr. Lungu.
He has warned the people involved in stealing of animals to stop as government is reviewing recommendations made by ZNFU to pass a law that will make stock theft a non-baillable offence to ensure livestock safety.
“The Rampant stock thefts that livestock farmers continue to face is of great concern to my government. The Zambia Police should ensure that culprits are brought to book and severe punishment meted out on perpetrators to deter would be offenders,” said Dr. Lungu.
He has encouraged livestock farmers in the country to venture into goat production as it has an already existing market in the DRC and Saudi Arabia.
Dr. Lungu said in order to provide employment and wealth creation among the citizens his government will continue to support processed agricultural exports.
He has expressed optimism that the memorandum of understanding with DRC will boost the country’s export earnings thereby improving the rural livelihood.
“Therefore, I urge all farmers in the country to come on board to produce to feed the nation and the region which has been looking to Zambia for support in food provision,” Dr. Lungu.
He explained that the only way the agriculture sector can expand profitably is through larger markets hence the need for farmers to dream big and produce big for the new found large markets outside Zambia.
And Minister of agriculture Micheal Katambo said agriculture exports can only be achieved if the public and private sector join hands in addressing challenges hampering the growth of the sector.
Mr. Katambo disclosed that his Ministry has been engaging stakeholders such as ZNFU, Grain Traders association of Zambia and Millers Association of Zambia to develop action plans which will ensure the sustained growth of the Maize and Cassava industry to carter for exports.
He has called upon small scale farmers in the country to take Cassava production seriously as it can uplift their living standards.
Mr. Katambo said continent such as South East Asia, Latin America and other countries in Africa have managed to build their economies through Cassava production and processing.
“Cassava Industry is a major money spinner for Zambia and working together with the private sector will deliver a lot of success in Cassava production, as this is a very important crop for the development of the country,” said Mr. Katambo.
Meanwhile, ZNFU President Jervis Zimba has bemoan the ever increasing importation of agriculture commodities which have unfair competition with the locally produced products.
Mr. Zimba wondered why chain stores should import products such as Milk and potatoes when local farmers have the capacity to supply them with the commodities.
He said the only sure way to guarantee markets for famers is when government put in stringent measures that are aimed at reducing the importation of agricultural commodities.
“We want to report that importation of agricultural products which the country can produce is ever increasing. Therefore, there is need to escalate the buy Zambia campaign and entrenchment of patriotism,” said Mr. Zimba.
Mr. Zimba has urged small scale farmers in the country to change their mind set and begin to produce for export market as opposed to only focusing on local markets.