Editor's Comment

Let’s grow economy through agriculture

FILE: OFFICERS from the Zambia National Service prepare their stand in readiness for the Copperbelt Mining, Agriculture and Commercial Show in Kitwe. PICTURE: NKOMBO KACHEMBA

HARDLY a week after President Lungu’s directive to the Zambia Public Procurement Authority to ensure that all infrastructural projects, including the airport expansion and electricity power station projects, are supplied by locally-produced materials, a visiting head of State has reiterated the need to support home-grown products.
When he toured Universal Mining and Chemical Industries Limited of Kafue last weekend, President Lungu said buying locally-produced goods such as steel bars will boost the local economy.
President Lungu said the need to support the steel plant, which employs about 1,000 people, is in line with Government’s development programme of job creation, hence the need for support by all Zambians. And visiting Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi has called on investors in Zambia to reduce on importation of agro-products and support local ones for the country’s robust economic diversification programme from mining to agriculture to bear fruit.
Mr Nyusi said in Ndola on Sunday that the agriculture sector has potential to thrive and improve the socio-economic welfare of citizens, if locally-produced agro-products are given the necessary support by local and foreign investors.
Opening the 52nd Zambia International Trade Fair, the Mozambican head of State said local agro-products will motivate farmers to increase their production and effectively contribute to economic development by exporting some of their produce to other countries.
President Nyusi is right. Zambia’s potential arable land covers about 47 percent of the country’s total land but only 15 percent of this is under cultivation.
Crop land is estimated at seven percent, of which permanent crops occupy less than one percent and others at 92 percent.
In a country where most farmers are subsistence while large-scale farmers comprise about two percent of the farming population, President Nyusi’s advice is valid and should be implemented without fail.
From the labour force of 3.4 million, almost 85 percent of our citizens work as subsistence farmers while commercial agriculture is confined to a small number of large farms.
Agriculture is the main source of income for the rural population, especially women, who constitute a high proportion of the rural population and agricultural labour force. With the unemployment rate of around 80 percent, agriculture is the country’s game-changer.
So, why should a country with huge arable land be subjected to importing agro-products when it has capacity to produce its own?
Zambia stands to walk tall in the region if investors import less and produce more locally because it will translate into money circulating among our subsistence farmers.
The Kwacha will strengthen significantly, gain value against major convertible currencies and inspire the economy, which will in turn put more money in the farmers’ pockets.
Investors will create win-win and sustainable relationships with farmers who produce food.
Government has liberalised the economy with a view to allowing market forces to thrive. However, Government should not be forced to take measures such as putting a cavity on importation of agro-products.

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