ESTHER MSETEKA, Lusaka
THE Grain Traders Association of Zambia (GTAZ) has observed that the maize open-border policy is not transparent enough to support economic development in the agriculture sector.
GTAZ executive director Chambuleni Simwinga said there is need to streamline the hurdles that maize and maize products traders are faced with when transporting the commodity to regional markets.
He said this on Thursday during a public discussion convened by Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute and the Economics Association of Zambia under the theme â€œOptions for Zambiaâ€™s maize and mealie meal industry in El Nino years.â€
Mr Simwinga said unnecessary bureaucracy is holding Zambia back from increasing maize exports, which is undermining the much-needed economic diversification.
â€œCurrently, what we are doing in Zambia is just like chancing business, traders are at pains sometimes when they are allowed to export, Government will allow but there are other parties within the system [ that make it difficult for traders to export] thereby impacting negatively on private sector investment.
â€œRight now, we have about 40 trucks stuck [at the borders] and about to return to Lusaka because of a signature. Why did the people responsible for the signature not do the right thing before the trucks left â€¦is that the way to run an open-border policy?â€ he asked.
Mr Simwinga also said there is need for Government and the private sector to invest in more storage facilities that can accommodate huge stocks of grain in case of a bumper harvest.
He said investing in storage facilities will help boost production and further empower the farming community.
Mr Simwinga said in as much as the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) is mandated to buy maize from farmers, the private sector should equally be given the opportunity to acquire the remaining stock.
â€œLet us look at investing in storage facilities. If we were to have a good harvest, where can we store the excess maize so that we can use it in the other year because the storage capacity for FRA is not enough? So, if Zambia can have more than three million tonnes storage capacity, then we will be talking of being a business country in terms of agriculture,â€ he said.
ESTHER MSETEKA, Lusaka