CHIMWEMWE MWALE, Lusaka
PRESIDENT Lungu says it is scandalous for Zambia to import fresh fish and has called for a stop to the trend because Zambians are capable of producing sufficient stocks for home consumption and export.
And President Lungu has disclosed that Government has secured US$50 million from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to enable Zambians venture into fish farming entrepreneurial projects.
Zambia currently has an approximated 20 million hectares of land under water. The country is, however, importing an estimated 45 metric tonnes of fish annually.
Mr Lungu said the seemingly growing trend of importing fish must be reversed as many people can produce fish in a similar manner that chickens are widely reared at various scales.
He said this in Chongweâ€™s Palabana yesterday after touring Palabana Fisheries, an aquaculture private company specialised in fingerling production and supply of dragging nets.
â€œI think this is an eye-opener for me.Â Zambia should stop the trend of importing fish. There is abundant water and we can utilise the labour. We can go back to where we belong and export fish around the region so we can reverse this in three yearsâ€™ time and be able to export even to China because it is criminal to imagine that we are importing tilapia from China when the fish is indigenous to Zambia,â€ he said.
The President was accompanied by Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Given Lubinda and his deputy Grayford Monde, and State House Deputy Minister Mulenga Sata.
Others in the delegation were special assistant to the President for press and public relations Amos Chanda and political advisor Kaizer Zulu.
President Lungu said Northern and Luapula provinces have abundant waters which can be restocked.
â€œI am given to understand that the Chinese at the time they were constructing the Tanzania-Zambia Railways rail line picked some fingerlings from Zambia and started breeding them and they have expanded to a point where they are exporting back to Zambia, and where were the Zambians?â€ Mr Lungu asked.
On measures to implement the fish restocking programme, President Lungu said Government has acquired US$50 million under the AfDB, which will be used to implement the initiative in rural parts of the country.
And Mr Lubinda said Government is working towards developing aquaculture farms and parks to reverse the â€œscandalâ€ of importing fish within one and half years.
He told journalists yesterday that areas where aquaculture parks will be established have already been identified.
â€œThe intention is to bring fish farmers together to operate as co-operatives because we have to try and pool resources together because if farmers do it individually, the cost becomes high but if we pool resources, then extension service provision also becomes more economical,â€ he said.
Mr Lubinda is happy that some farmers have formed an association called Aquaculture Association of Zambia, which is in constant dialogue with Government, and that incentives will be considered.
He said they, however, have a challenge of scarcity of fish feed, which most millers do not produce.
Palabana Fisheries director Sammy Williey said he is overjoyed by President Lunguâ€™s visit and thanked the head of state for touring the fish project.
Mr Williey said President Lunguâ€™s visit will help stimulate and further promote fish farming in the country.
Meanwhile, President Lungu has said he does not want to interfere with the ongoing dialogue to resolve the current stand-off between Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) management and unionised workers.
Mr Lungu is hopeful that there is â€œno political influence in the matterâ€.
CHIMWEMWE MWALE, Lusaka