Editor's Comment

Zambia’s food security status heartening

SILIYA

MINISTER of Agriculture Dora Siliya’s ministerial statement that Zambia has enough food to last beyond this crop-marketing season – until April 2017 – is settling.
The minister’s statement dispels any unnecessary rumours of food insecurity in the country, bearing in mind the smuggling of maize that has been reported time and again at Zambia’s various borders with neighbouring countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
We commend Government for taking the proactive step, as food is perhaps the most crucial of national development factors.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Ms Siliya said Zambia has a maize surplus of 634,680 metric tonnes from the 2015/2016 farming season.
From her statement, it is inspiring to learn that there is more than 3,900,000 metric tonnes of maize available from the farming season.
Additionally, the minister of agriculture told the august house that the country has recorded a rise in the production of other key food security crops.
This is an important indicator in Zambia’s quest to diversify crop production, which has hitherto woven around maize.
The abundance of maize in the midst of neighbouring countries that are in severe food deficit inevitably triggers the challenge of `sharing’ with the needy.
Smuggling of maize out of Zambia is a real challenge that calls for continued, if not redoubled, efforts to keep it in check. Thankfully, Government has in place a task force to ensure this.
As Ms Siliya has said: “Government, through the National Stocks Committee, will continue to verify the stocks held by grain traders, millers and the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU). Law enforcement agencies and the security wings will continue to ensure that smuggling of maize and mealie-meal is stopped. Confiscated trucks, maize and maize products will be impounded and disposed of in accordance with the law.”
Notably, while the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) is yet to meet its target of 500,000 metric tonnes for strategic reserves, the private sector has bought over 900,000 metric tonnes of the grain.
These stocks in private hands are obviously not all meant for consumption in Zambia as evidenced by calls to be allowed to export some of the grain.
This should not be allowed until there is enough of the maize in the FRA’s strategic food reserves. We hail Government for being prudent.
The private buyers are clearly unhappy about the ban of maize exports, but it is better to make a few people unhappy than to have millions angry and hungry because of allowing most of the food exported.
This situation calls for more strategies that will help ensure a win-win situation because farmers could be discouraged from food production if they can’t sell their crop to higher bidders.
It should be noted though that in many instances, it is not the farmer, especially the small-scale farmer, who benefits from the exports. It is the middleman, who buys off the maize and reselles it at a higher price.
As Zambia builds its agriculture base, it is important that all levels of farmers get the full benefits of their hard work.
For now, it is good that Zambia continues to be food- secure and all Zambians must guard this status jealously.

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