KABANDA CHULU, Lusaka
AN AGRICULTURAL think tank says Zambia is likely to increase its annual maize production from the current three million tonnes to over four million tonnes by 2025 if favourable weather patterns continue and more farmers adopt the use of improved technologies.
The Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI) also advised Government to stop restricting maize exports since the commodity has the potential to boost Zambiaâ€™s foreign exchange revenue as evidenced with the earning of over US$170 million from maize grain exports alone in 2015.
In its 2016/17 maize outlook and regional analysis released last week, IAPRI states that Zambia will produce enough maize to meet its domestic requirements while exporting surplus production.
â€œThe anticipated growth in production will mainly be driven by yield increases rather than growth in the area planted under maize.
â€œGiven the assumptions of favourable weather patterns, maize productivity is expected to increase as a result of adopting improved technologies by farmers such as use of improved seeds and fertilisers,â€ the report says.
IAPRI also notes that the El Nino weather conditions (dry spells) have waned off and there is a projection of La Nina weather in the region for the next production season.
A La Nina event may result in generally above normal rainfall in Zambia and neighbouring countries.
This implies that the regional maize supplies will improve and if the export situation is not managed well, Zambia may find itself sitting on very expensive stocks which traders will not be able to buy from farmers.
â€œPrudent decisions need to be taken now to facilitate a balance between domestic needs and exports, and to incentivise farmers to grow more next season and to encourage private traders, millers and other market players to invest more in the sector,â€ it stated.
The report anticipates that the high demand for Zambiaâ€™s maize will continue into the next maize harvest of 2017.
â€œIn terms of regional demand, the most attractive markets for Zambia are Zimbabwe and Malawi. However, export restrictions imposed on the 2016 harvest means that Zambia might miss the opportunity to utilise its potential to maximise earnings from maize sales, as regional demand is likely to be satisfied by imports from markets such as Mexico, Brazil and the USA,â€ it stated.
KABANDA CHULU, Lusaka