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Multinationals backing to small holders laudable

FOR a long time now, small holder farmers in Zambia have continued facing serious challenges in crop marketing.
The challenges have ranged from failure to get their produce to markets and access capital to increase production of their goods and services.
We, therefore, welcome the announcement by Zambeef and Shoprite that they will give more business to local suppliers as it will help reduce unemployment, and should be emulated by other indigenous and multinational companies.
But we urge chain stores to buy the local goods and services at reasonable prices.
We commend this initiative because it will help to empower local businesses and ensure that they become more productive.
The initiative by Zambeef Products Plc and Shoprite Zambia will support smallholder farmers and entreprenuers by linking them to markets.
A statement issued by Langmead and Baker Limited says the initiative is under the United Kingdom-funded Private Enterprise Programme Zambia (PEP-Z).
Smallholder farmers in Zambia and in many other countries in Africa have been struggling to supply big chain stores operating here.
The PEP-Z programme will not just help small-scale farmers by linking them to the markets but it is also meant to building and strengthening the capacity of Zambian micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs).
This initiative will go a long way in creating jobs and contribute to the diversification of the economy, which has largely remained dependent on copper.
Coming at a time when copper prices have fallen significantly this could help the country save some foreign currency as it will help reduce the importation of commodities that can be sourced locally.
And as PEP-Z programme manager Bayo Akindeinde has said the partnership between Shoprite and Zambeef Products will also enhance entrepreneurs’ capacity to supply quality products to the markets.
The aim is to strengthen the market linkages further and support entrepreneurs so that they are able to supply quality products consistently.
Shoprite Zambia and some other multinational companies are already buying local products, but the idea is that these linkages must be strengthened further.
We are saying this because although some chain stores have been buying local product, it is common knowledge that 80 percent of items stored in these outlets are imported.
But much as we welcome this commendable initiative it remains a challenge to small-scale farmers and other small businesses to improve on the quality of their products and be consistent in supply.
This is why it is important that small-scale farmers’ associations intensify capacity building for their members so that they can improve their standards.
For those firms that are not yet on board in supporting local businesses, we are urging them to consider partnering with small-scale farmers and businesses to help grow the country’s economy.
We shall continue encouraging such partnerships because it is on the basis of such alliances that the economy can continue to growth.
This will not lead to job creation alone, but also help in reducing poverty, which is a key priority for the government.