SHIKANDA KAWANGA, Livingstone
GOVERNMENT has appealed to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) to develop an early
warning system which will help safeguard crop production.
And Southern Province Minister Edify Hamukale has urged COMESA to facilitate maize trade among member states and the rest of the world.
Dr Hamukale said there is need to ensure that invasive pests are detected early before they cause serious damage to crops.
He said the agricultural sector is one of the major contributors to economic development of the region and its food security hence the need to detect any possible damages to crops.
He was speaking during the eighth COMESA Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) sub-committee meeting in Livingstone on Wednesday.
Dr Hamukale said in Zambia, quick intervention by Government saved crops from being wiped out by army worms last farming season.
He said Government has lifted a maize export ban and maize products and has so far exported the produce to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
Dr Hamukale said Kenya is also interested in importing 100,000 metric tonnes of maize from Zambia.
“Government has confirmed to Kenya the removal of 10 percent export tax on maize and the maize supply to that country,” he said.
And Dr Hamukale said COMESA should help countries which are producing various agricultural commodities in abundance to market and sell their products to countries in the region and beyond.
“Most COMESA countries recorded a maize bumper harvest, but why is it that the maize is not exported to China when we import Chinese tractors to produce maize here. It has to be a two-way process, they send us the tractors and they should also buy our maize,” he said.
Dr Hamukale said African countries can also export maize to countries like Venezuela, Costa Rica, United States of America and Germany.
He said all countries are members of the World Trade Organisation and that such membership should result in more African products being exported to the western world.
Dr Hamukule said agriculture remains a strategic sector in addressing economic and social development in Zambia and the COMESA region as a whole.
And COMESA industry and agriculture director Thierry Mutombo said the SPS programme is for trade facilitation and food security.