You are currently viewing Agri-business environment is ripe in Zambia

Agri-business environment is ripe in Zambia

IN 2004 how many multinational agribusinesses did we have in Zambia? There were very few if any but to date there are so many that have opened operations in Zambia. There are those in the input supply being; Monsanto, Dupont, Pannar, BASF, Bayer, Syngenta, Aryster, Omnia, Yara, and in the off-take markets being NWK, AFGRI, Mt Meru, and many others.
Reports reaching my desk are that another multinational fertiliser company will open operations very soon.
We are also seeing companies that abandoned us coming back to set base in the country.
Just the other day I was perplexed to see a Dunlop-branded company driving down our streets in Lusaka.
For me, this is a sign that these companies have seen something good in Zambia’s agri-business environment in spite of having a weak currency.
However, what still beats me is that none of these companies except Mt Meru, Cargill and to some extent Greenbelt have established processing units or manufacturing bases in Zambia (with an exception of seed business which is grown locally).
This still gives me a nagging headache because tomorrow they can easily do us the ‘ROP’ way.
For those that were not there, ROP relocated to one of our neighbouring countries. I think the government through the Commerce minister should revisit our investment policies.
Just imagine, Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania have some plants for some of these companies; for instance, we know that many of the agrochemical companies have plants were they manufacture and package these products in Kenya and South Africa.
Why should our South African brothers be packaging these products for us when we also have two hands? We need to have such plants established in Zambia so that we can label our own products.
The excuse that Zambia has no port for easy shipment of raw materials is neither here nor there because we now have access to Walvis Bay, which is a stone’s throw away from Livingstone. We can easily bring the raw materials through that port and have them repackaged here in Zambia.
We can’t just be a surplus producer of grain in the region when we are not benefiting on the least cost of inputs. We need to have fertiliser packaging projects just like our colleagues in the region.
We all know that they did it in Zimbabwe before they embarked on the land reform programme, most of the multi-nationals had plants there.
Zambia has the right agribusiness environment for investments in the region. Not long ago most companies used to rush to South Africa but they have just realised that South Africa has reached its full potential and has nothing more to offer.
In Zambia, we have abundant land with low productivity, which is an opportunity for investors.
Even with the low productivity, we have managed to feed the region in the last two seasons and we are still feeding them this year.
This shows that we have a competitive advantage over our neighbours in the region. Zambia is amongst the few countries that have invested massively in infrastructure development; we have roads being built even where we used to have breeding areas for cobras.
This is bearing fruit as can be seen by multi-national investments in rural areas such as the milling plant established by Cargill in Chipata and the processing plant by COMACO in the same town.
Though we are not able to eat the roads now, they will definitely add value to decentralisation and opening up of remote areas. I was last in Chipata in 2012 and I was elated to learn that there is a sugar plantation being established in Milenge district.
My earnest appeal is that the government comes up with policies which will compel commodity traders, for instance, not to be exporting raw materials.
They should instead only allow export of either mealie-meal, animal feed or Junta in the place of maize grain. This has to start with Government; we are aware that our colleagues from DR Congo sent envoys to President Lungu to ask for help in terms of food.
The agreement should be that we can help them with food in form of mealie-meal and not maize grain.
All those multi-nationals that are sitting on the fence should immediately start thinking of opening up operations in Zambia. Zambia will soon be the Dubai of Southern Africa.
The backbone of Zambia’s commerce industry lies with agricultural development with supportive sectors such as energy, transport and communication. Let’s do it Zambians, we are on track!
This author is an Agribusiness practitioner. ftembo2001@