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Banning of wheat importation welcome

GOVERNMENT’S banning of wheat imports into the country is pleasant news, which cannot escape our copious praise.
The ban should stimulate the growth of our local industry since wheat is one of the agricultural products in our country, whose consumption ranks very high, probably only to be compared to maize.
The ban comes in the wake of the country’s deficit in wheat, which was estimated to run out by March this year prompting Government to approve the importation of 75,000 tonnes of the commodity.
We appreciate Government’s confidence in Zambian farmers to meet the local demand for the crop. This is progressive, as it will spur the farmers to work even harder, earn more money and contribute to our country’s much needed economic growth.
The ban is with immediate effect.
Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Given Lubinda said local farmers should, however, not exploit consumers. It is gratifying to note this timely and wise warning because, as the wise have said, unless people are checked, they are likely to abuse others.
The minister has made it clear that local farmers should not price their wheat more than imported wheat.
We support the checks and balances by Government and urge our farmers to ensure they work very hard and prove that they can be trusted to help the country be food-secure and grow more economically.
This is paramount because Government has identified and declared agriculture as one of the country’s leading sectors of our growing economy.
The farmers, it must be emphasised, should know that it is utilising opportunities such as this one well that would cause Government to show them more of its goodwill in future.
We find that extremely important, especially that Government is able to import the commodity in the unlikely event that our farmers fail to deliver.
To encourage them, Mr Lubinda said the only time wheat imports will be allowed will be when local supply is exhausted.
“The one thing for sure is that whoever comes running to the ministry asking for an import permit, the answer is a categorical no. I will not allow the importation of wheat. I want to inform the citizens that I am not in a hurry to allow importation of commodities as long as they are locally available.
“We are a Government that takes precautions when handling import and export matters. Let me also appeal to farmers not to abuse [the ban of wheat imports] by increasing prices. Let everyone involved in the value chain be responsible,” he said.
This will result in more money in people’s pockets, which the Patriotic Front (PF) government promised. We are happy to observe that, as it shows pragmatism.
We say that because we are interested in seeing the living standards of Zambians raised and that is one sure way of achieving that.
We are also cognisant of the fact that when the PF promised more money in people’s pockets, it did not imply free money. It was money worked for and the creation of opportunities for work such as the one given to local farmers to produce wheat at the expense of imports of the commodity.
That shows that Government is walking the talk.
It is heartening to see the readiness of our farmers to meet the challenge, Zambia National Farmers Union vice-president Graham Rae having said that Zambia anticipates an exportable surplus of wheat.
We commend Government for such an economically sound and proactive decision.