Agriculture sector has tremendous potential

Investment Forum with MARGARET CHIMANSE
ZAMBIA is endowed with a large arable land resource base of 42 million hectares, of which only 1.5 million hectares is cultivated every year. It has abundant water resources for irrigation, and the country accounts for 40 percent of the water resource in southern Africa.
Given the vast resource endowment in terms of land, labour and water, Zambia has the potential to expand its agricultural production. The country has a total land area of 75 million hectares (752,000 square km), which is divided into three major agro-ecological regions, namely regions I, II and III – each suitable for investment opportunities in the production of various crops.
Despite the vast arable land, plenty of water and the fact that the agriculture sector employs more than half of the total labour force, only 10 percent of the arable land is under cultivation. It is because of this potential that the government encourages investment in commercial farming and has established farm blocks to facilitate investments in agriculture.
With vast stretches of land suitable for agriculture, Government has embarked on improving access to inputs and finance for small-scale farmers as a way of diversifying the economy from a heavy reliance on copper production and exports.
In most parts of the country, especially among the rural and peri-urban populations, agriculture is the main source of livelihood. Income from the export of agricultural products is increasing every year.
A number of initiatives have been made to make farmers diversify away from cultivating the traditional maize.
International development organisations, the national farmers’ union and other national agricultural organisations, together with the government, have been promoting the cultivation of other crops such as soya beans, cowpeas, groundnuts, mixed beans and cassava.
These crops offer a huge potential income source as they are of high value and are currently produced in small quantities. Soya beans is also an important ingredient in stock feeds. One of the major hindrances to the cultivation of these crops is lack of market information and limited access by small-scale farmers as the majority of these farmers are rural-based, with little or no education.
The Zambeef Group is one of the companies in Zambia that has taken advantage of this huge potential and resource endowment and has turned around the company to make it one of the most successful companies in agriculture and agro-processing.
Zambia’s potential to develop its agriculture sector is tremendous given its considerable resource endowment in terms of virgin land with good soil, good climate and rainfall, labour and abundant water.
Zambeef Products Plc joint chief executive officer Carl Irwin says of Zambia’s total land area of 75 million hectares, 58 percent is classified as having medium to high potential for agricultural production.
During the Zambia International Investment Forum in Lusaka at Mulungushi International Conference Centre recently, which was jointly hosted by the Zambia Development Agency and the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry, Dr Irwin added that it is estimated that up to 40 percent of inland fresh water in sub-Saharan Africa flows through Zambia.
He says Zambeef strongly believes in Zambia’s potential to feed itself and the region given its abundant resources, good soil and climate, conducive business environment, readily available labour and the ability to produce most crops.
“The COMESA presents vast market opportunities for Zambia. For example, Zambeef’s Novatek subsidiary exports feed to the neighbouring countries,” Dr Irwin explained.
“Zambeef currently operates 151 retail outlets including its Master Meats in Nigeria and Ghana and through its strategic partnership with Shoprite,” he added.
Mr Irwin emphasised that small to medium-scale farmers play an important role in the agricultural value chain.
“For example, over 90 percent of livestock in the country is in the hands of the small and medium-scale farmers, and Zambeef has partnered with the farmers at different levels, in effect providing a ready market for their products as well as linking them to the market,” he observed.
The Zambeef chief notes that equipping the farmers with technical knowledge and skills will help improve productivity and quality of livestock and produce.
Mr Irwin explains that the future success of Zambia’s agriculture sector depends, among others, on increased opportunities for diversification, utilising available information and technology to produce differentiated products and a more systematic market structure that will ensure the least amount of transfer time from the field to the consumer.
He adds that a strong and lasting infrastructure development, increased investment and co-investment by both the government and the private sector with effective and transforming economic and industry policies that will foster growth are very imperative for the success of the agriculture sector.
The Zambeef Group is one of the largest integrated agri-businesses in Zambia.
The Group is principally involved in the production, processing, distribution and retailing of beef, chicken, pork, milk, dairy products, fish, eggs, stock feed and flour throughout Zambia and the surrounding region, as well as Nigeria and Ghana.
The Group is also one of the largest cereal row cropping operations in Zambia (maize, soya beans and wheat), with approximately 8,120 hectares irrigated and 8,480 hectares rain-fed arable, developed land available for planting each year.
Currently, the group employs over 6,250 staff and generated a turnover of over US$220 million in 2015.
With the call for diversification by the government, it is clear that the formula for creating wealth for the nation lies in the agriculture sector through value addition. Countries that add value to exports become wealthy while poor nations export raw materials.
Zambia must now rapidly diversify its export mix and add value to all of its raw materials by developing efficient and competitive value chains. It is now time to turn the huge potential resource base into wealth and more jobs for the people.
For further information, contact:
The public relations manager, Zambia Development Agency, Nasser Road, P.O.Box 30819, Lusaka.
Tel: +260-211-229240/220177 or fax:+260-211-225270.

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