Editor's Comment

Stop the smugglers

THE thwarted attempt to smuggle 168.9 tonnes of maize to Malawi reveals, yet again, that Zambia cannot afford to drop its guard against those threatening food security.
The pride that Zambia has in being food-sufficient could be wiped out if smugglers gain an upper hand over law-enforcers.
The smugglers are getting brazen in their quest for quick money as evidenced by the quantities of maize they are attempting to illegally export. The 11 trucks impounded point to financial muscle that these smugglers also have.
Thankfully, it looks like the security forces are on top of their game and are ensuring that the long arm of the law is effective.
The apparent increase in smuggling into Malawi could also be a wake-up call for security forces that a new battlefront has been widened.
Initially, smuggling of maize was largely directed towards the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It is, however, worrying that Malawi is also becoming another targeted destination by smugglers, signalling market expansion.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that some maize smugglers have also been spotted on the Nakonde route. Obviously the smugglers are taking advantage of the yawning market in the region to engage in illegal export of maize.
While these smugglers are blinded by personal monetary gain, their actions, if not curtailed, can plunge the country into a hunger crisis.
Zambia recorded a fairly good harvest in the 2019/2020 farming season of 3,387,469 metric tonnes of maize from 2,004,389 metric tonnes in the 2018/2019 season, but this should not cause a layback attitude.
In recent years, the country endured devastating effects of climatic change which manifested through floods on one hand and drought on another.
The impact has been visible enough for all to see. Many parts of the country were hit by famine, leaving Government with no option but to offload what was in the reserves to provide relief for those affected.
It is only common knowledge that when there is good harvest, the top priority should be to ensure food security not only for now but for the future.
While the situation of food security may seem good for now, tables can easily turn depending on how the harvest is managed.
It may seem that 3,387,469 metric tonnes of maize is a lot but this can be wiped out in a very short time if measures are not put in place to stop illegal exports.
It is barely a week since the crop marketing season was launched and the Food Reserve Agency has not even secured the targeted reserves but we hear of huge tonnes of maize exiting the country.
This is a signal that FRA needs to move in quickly and replenish the reserves to ensure food security.
This year FRA targets to purchase one million metric tonnes of maize. It is good that Government has already released K1 billion towards the purchase of maize.
Since the money is there, FRA should ensure that farmers are paid in good time. Needless to say delayed payment is one of the factors that discourage farmers from selling their produce to FRA.
About 90 percent of the harvest in the country is produced by subsistence farmers and most of these live hand-to-mouth.  They are therefore in a hurry to sell their produce to raise money to meet immediate needs.
Whatever the case, the country cannot afford to compromise on food security. Given the unpredictable weather patterns, it is not certain if the next farming season will also produce a good harvest.
It is therefore prudent to safeguard the current harvest to ensure food security in an event that the forthcoming farming seasons fail to yield good harvests.
Going by the recent past experience, the country does not need a prophet to prophesy the likelihood of experiencing drought and floods, which in turn affect the crop yield.
Every time the country has a good harvest, it should be taken as a blessing and an opportunity not to be squandered but utilised prudently.
For those who have no concern about the country’s food security and are engaging in illegal export of maize, the law must visit them.
These individuals are not only posing a threat to food security but depriving Government of revenue through unpaid taxes.
We therefore commend the security wings for being swift and intercepting the 11 trucks that were headed for Malawi.
There is, however, need to intensify surveillance and patrols considering that the border is wide and the smugglers seem determined to take all sorts of risks to achieve their objectives.
They must not succeed.

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