CHIMWEMWE MWALE, Chipata
A TOTAL of 28 trucks laden with bags of maize destined for Malawi have been marooned at Mwami border post in Chipata for over three weeks.
And Government plans to erect a fence at Kasumbalesa border to curb smuggling of goods into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
In the Chipata incident, the trucks, each carrying 30 tonnes of maize, have not been cleared by the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) because the client, NWK Commodities, has not obtained the export permit for the commodity from the Ministry of Agriculture.
This came to light when Minister of Agriculture Given Lubinda, ZRA commissioner-general Berlin Msiska, Food Reserve Agency executive director Chola Kafwabulula and Eastern Province permanent secretary Chanda Kasolo undertook a fact-finding mission at the border where the trucks are stuck.
ZRA Mwami border post customs station manager Rector Muhau explained to the minister that maize and mealie-meal, among others, are controlled commodities in Zambia and that one must obtain a permit from the Ministry of Agriculture to export them.
Mr Muhau said the trucks, which belong to a Malawian company Femark, will not be cleared until the client obtains the necessary permit.
â€œThe trucks need relevant permits and what has been submitted so far is not adequate, and failure to produce the permit from Ministry of Agriculture, they will not pass,â€ he said.
Mr Muhau said this is the first time in the history of the border post to have trucks marooned at the border.
And Mr Lubinda has directed ZRA to ensure that the 28 trucks do not leave the border until the matter is investigated.
He said there are some unscrupulous millers buying maize from the Food Reserve Agency who are deliberately transporting and selling mealie-meal across the borders.
The minister also instructed Mr Kasolo to ensure that the maize is traced in the event that the trucks are turned back.
Mr Lubinda said his ministry should also establish the circumstances under which the trucks were loaded with maize without obtaining a permit as per procedure.
He said Government wants to protect both farmers and consumers and will not allow people to obtain permits to export maize unnecessarily.
â€œWe do not intend to have a total ban on the export of maize or any other commodity because we want to become the food basket for the region, and this is a sign that our agriculture sector is maturing, but we are not going to allow Zambians to suffer at the expense of exporting food,â€ he said.
And paramount Chief Mpezeni of the Ngoni people is concerned about the rampant smuggling of maize and mealie-meal into neighbouring Malawi.
The traditional leader said the trend must be stopped immediately as it is posing a threat to food security in the province.
He appealed to Government to act and effectively curb the unorthodox trade practice.
And Chief Mpezeni said the 2015/2016 farming season has been challenging because of the erratic rainfall pattern.
â€œAlthough the crops have survived, the season has been challenging because some people had to replant even up to three times because the rains delayed to start and it was erratic in some areas. Some people will have a poor harvest and I am appealing to Government to supply relief food to the affected families,â€ he said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Home Affairs Davies Mwila says Government will erect a 20-kilometre perimeter fence at Kasumbalesa border post in Chililabombwe to curb the rampant smuggling of essential commodities into the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, NKOMBO KACHEMBA reports from Kasumbalesa
Mr Mwila said essential commodities like mealie-meal and maize grain are being smuggled at a high rate, posing a risk to the food security of the nation.
â€œI am here to see how best we can reduce the problem of smuggling at Kasumbalesa border post. One of the plans that we have as government is that of putting up a barrier here at the border to control the movement of goods into the Democratic Republic of Congo,â€ he said.
Mr Mwila was speaking at Kasumbalesa border post on Saturday, where he inspected the boundaries of the border to determine the extent of its porousness.
He said he will engage the ministries of Finance and Transport, Works, Supply and Communications to see how quickly the perimeter wall can be built.
Mr Mwila said Kasumbalesa border post is too porous, making it difficult for Immigration officers to monitor the movement of people to and from the DRC.
He also said Government will have to rescind its earlier decision of extending the operating hours at Kasumbalesa from 06:00 hours to 20:00 hours due to the porousness of the border.
CHIMWEMWE MWALE, Chipata