KABANDA CHULU, Lusaka
ZAMBIA should deregulate the agriculture sector by allowing export of surplus maize and other commodities to attract more investments into the industry, Standard Chartered Bank chief economist for Africa Razia Khan has said.
Dr Khan said there is need to sustain the current economic growth Zambia is experiencing by promoting other viable sectors of the economy.
“There are opportunities in agriculture, and we need to increase agricultural productivity to make the country a regional food hub since the sector has huge potential but it is under-utilised. Actually, export bans of surplus produce is a hindrance to investments.
“There is also need for policy predictability around exports in agriculture because investors are reluctant to increase their investments if they are not sure whether exports of surplus produce will be permitted or not,” she said recently.
In its 2016/17 maize outlook and regional analysis, the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI) advised Government to stop restricting maize exports since the commodity has the potential to boost Zambia’s foreign exchange revenue as evidenced by the earning of over US$170 million from maize grain exports alone in 2015.
According to a 2016 scoping study report on maize marketing in Zambia compiled by the Centre for Trade Policy and Dialogue (CTPD), maize export restrictions have a negative impact on the growth of the agriculture sector as farmers switch to other crops for fear of future bans, resulting in reduced maize production and low government revenue.
Nevertheless, Minister of Finance Felix Mutati said Government will no longer impose export bans on maize and other products when there is a surplus.
“There will be no more export bans on maize and other produce whenever we record bumper harvests.
“This is why we are supporting private sector initiatives such as the Zambia Agriculture Commodity Exchange (ZAMACE) platform that will allow usage of warehouse receipt systems to enable farmers borrow against their produce,” he said.