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Zambia potato output record poor

SITUMBEKO SITWALA, Lusaka
ZAMBIA will continue importing Irish potatoes from other countries in the region as evidenced by the poor production figures of the last 40 years.
Zambia, which stands at number 26 in terms of annual Irish potato production in Africa, performs poorly in the sub-sector, according to 2013 data on Irish potato production for 2013.
Since the 1970s, when Zambia was harvesting lower than 3,000 metric tonnes of potatoes a year, the country has been performing poorly compared to South Africa, Malawi, Tanzania, Angola and Mozambique, whose figures during the same period stood at 614,000 metric tonnes, 86,182 metric tonnes, 55,385 metric tonnes, 34,000 metric tonnes and 40,000 metric tonnes, respectively.
The data compiled by  the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) notes that Zambia harvested a meagre 31,000 metric tonnes compared to Malawi with the highest output in southern Africa with 4,535,960 metric tonnes, South Africa which had 2,252,000 metric tonnes. Tanzania was at 1,767,540 metric tonnes, Angola produced 670,136 metric tonnes and Mozambique’s 200,000 metric tonnes.
FAO lists Egypt as Africa’s biggest producer with 4,800,000 metric tonnes in 2013, followed by Malawi, while Burundi stood at the bottom of the top-20 with a yield of 122,904 metric tonnes.
The 40 countries produced a total yield on 30,167,755 metric tonnes of Irish potatoes in 2013 and Zambia’s 31,000 metric tonnes represented a paltry 0.10 percentage point.
Other African countries covered in the 2013 potato cultivation data are Algerian, (4,400,000mt), Kenya (2,500,000mt), Rwanda (2,252,000mt), Morocco (1,928,610mt), Nigeria (1,200,200mt), Ethiopia (775,503mt) and Uganda (774,600mt).
The FAO compilation does not include production figures from 14 other countries in West Africa, North Africa, central Africa and southern Africa. Botswana is the only country in southern Africa which was not covered.
It is difficult to find figures on Irish potato tillage, yield and consumption in Zambia because there is no national agency that buys the crop from farmers.
Zambia has not been a traditional Irish potato-grower, but the crop has now been introduced under the Lima scheme, this is according to Zambia National Farmers’ Union president, Evelyn Nguleka.
North-Western and Central provinces are the traditional Irish potato-growing regions, while the crop has recently been introduced in Luapula and Western provinces.