Business

Zambia food secure despite poor rains

TRYNESS TEMBO, Lusaka
OVER the last three farming seasons, Zambia has been recording maize bumper harvests despite being faced with challenges as a result of effects of climate change challenges that threatens the country’s food security.
Maize production in the 2016/17 season was recorded at 3.6 million tonnes from 2.8 million tonnes in the previous season while in the 2017/18 season, the country is anticipating to post another bumper harvest although estimates have not been given.
The increase in production is mainly attributed to favourable weather conditions, despite a delayed start in some parts of the country.
Last week, President Edgar Lungu, in his address to the nation presented in Parliament, he observed that climate change has continued to negatively impacting on the country’s food, water and energy security.
Mr Lungu believes that it is important to address the effects of climate change to warrant sustainable development through interventions such as afforestation and reforestation.
“There is also need for promotion of conservation farming and green energy to this effect over 2,500 hectares were planted in Luapula and Muchinga provinces in 2017,” he adds.
Mr Lungu explains that Government is also promoting agriculture research to mitigate the impact of climate change on small-scale farmers through development, adoption and adaptation of appropriate technologies.
These factors are important as highlighted by the experts that climate change is likely to worsen in the next 10 to 20 years.
It is in this vein, that immediate past Minister of Agriculture Dora Siliya has made assurance that no citizen will go hungry despite the disappointing rains in the 2017/18 season and crops that were planted earlier had withered due to poor rainfall.
But Government is optimistic that investing in sustainable rural agriculture communities is achievable through development policies designed to address the impact of climate change on food security.
“In Southern Province, parts of Western and Eastern provinces, we have seen that there has been drought. We have experienced no rains in those areas leading to the failure of crops like maize.
“Going forward government will increase its investment in harvesting rain-water and the construction of dams thereby, reducing dependence on rain-fed agriculture,” Ms Siliya observed.
Despite the late start of the rains last season, the country witnessed more rains in other ecological zones which resulted in improved yields.
In light of the current climate change challenges, Government needs to invest more bulky water sites and water harvesting methods.
Recently, millers expressed concerns that in spite of the bumper harvest, Zambia is currently experiencing an artificial maize shortage created by the grain traders and requested FRA to begin to offload maize to them to avoid consumer exploitation.
Nevertheless, Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) has engaged the Grain Traders Association of Zambia (GTAZ) and Zambia National Farmers Union and the meetings held have started to yield positive results.
MAZ president Andrew Chintala revealed that over 30 percent of the available 85,000 tonnes of maize has been released on the open market by GTAZ.
Mr Chintala observes that there has been an improvement in supply of maize following the meeting held by the key industry players meant to stabilise mealie meal prices.
MAZ should also consider buying maize from the Zambia Commodity Exchange (ZAMACE), which is a more transparent platform to counter claims of maize shortage on the market.
This is also the feeling of the Consumer Unit Trust Society (CUTS) that believes that trading on ZAMACE benefit both consumers and millers as they will be buying maize at the lowest market determined price as well as allow Government to make informed decisions on issues of supply and demand in the market.
“As CUTS, our view is that the best way to address the concerns of all the key stakeholders within the maize sector is making use of ZAMACE. In light of the concerns that have been raised, we therefore, urges the miller to indicate their requirements on the ZAMACE platform,” CUTS Zambia national co-ordinator Chenai Mukumba said.
Undoubtedly, if millers use the commodity market, farmers will be able to benefit because it guarantees the quality and quantity of their stored maize, which allows them to access loans.
On the other hand, various stakeholders needed to participate on the platform for it to be effective.
“Let’s embrace these new innovative instruments to move our agriculture value chain to the next level. The ZAMACE offering will definitely attract the financial institutions once off-takers are seen to be active on the platform,” ZAMACE executive director Jacob Mwale said.
Once millers come on board, it will show the farmers, traders and the government how much demand for the grains is on offer.
Mr Mwale argues that quantity is never a limiting factor but an indicator to the players in the market of opportunities of supply and demand.
From the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI) assessment, 2018 is a ‘year of impact’.
Giving a review of 2017 and a forecast for 2018 in terms of the agriculture sector, IAPRI has taken time to reflect on some of the key issues that transpired in the agriculture sector and provided its expectations for agricultural reforms in 2018.
It highlights of the 2017 export ban, large carry over stocks coupled with an impending bumper harvest in Zambia and the southern Africa region as the consolation to this year’s challenges.
IAPRI has commended Government for committing to market- related pricing with regard to the buying by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) in 2017 and for sticking to the 500, 000 tonnes strategic food reserves.
However, the institute does not agree to calls by some stakeholders to expand the activities of FRA to include ‘commercialising’ the agency’s Terms of Reference as there was no evidence to support this action.
The tough decisions made by Government to address the challenges affected by the private sector so that the food security of the nation is assured need to be commended by everyone.
Overall, the country needs to be alert in light of effects of climate change that threaten food security and energy supply by adopting adequate mitigation measures.


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