YANDE SYAMPEYO, Lusaka
GOVERNMENT has banned the importation of some fruits and vegetables to promote production and grow the market for local farmers.
And Shoprite Zambia and Food Lovers Market, the South African chain stores, have protested and are seeking lifting of the ban.
Ministry of Agriculture permanent secretary Julius Shawa named the banned agricultural produce as tomatoes, onions, carrots, mangoes, potatoes, pineapples, lemons and watermelons.
Mr Shawa said in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Mail that the ban follows numerous concerns by local farmers that the imported produce had a negative impact on their business.
â€œJust recently, we received complaints from farmers that some tomatoes from neighbouring Tanzania were being imported cheaply, hence under-cutting our farmers.
â€œOur concern as a ministry is that lets us encourage the sourcing and supply of these products within the country, so we have imposed an administrative restriction for now,â€ Mr Shawa.
He said the country has capacity to produce and constantly supply fruits and vegetables to satisfy local demand.
Mr Shawa added that most farmers in Chibombo, Chisamba and Mkushi, among other areas, are growing most of the fruits and vegetables that some foreign supermarkets are importing.
He said Government wants to promote local production and supply of agriculture produce to fill the shelves.
â€œThe chain stores are being lazy to source from the local market. Those products that we have restricted are readily available locally,â€ he said.
The permanent secretary has challenged local farmers to take up the challenge by producing more and ensuring a constant supply of the agriculture produce in the chain stores.
â€œWe are telling our farmers, â€˜here is the marketâ€™. They should produce and supply all the requisites. We want to make our own farmers rich,â€ he said.
And Mr Shawa has challenged Shoprite and Food Lovers Market to demonstrate the inability of local farmers to supply the produce whose importation has been banned.
â€œWe have agreed as a ministry and together with our counterparts at Commerce to meet them to listen to their concerns.
â€œThe two supermarkets need to demonstrate to us that the products are unavailable or they are inadequate locally,â€ he said.
But Food Lovers Market has cited inconsistency in supply and compromised quality of produce by local farmers as some of the reasons it is agitated over the ban.
Food Lovers Market Levy Mall Junction manager Obrian Mangimela lamented the tendency by local farmers to supply once and thereafter go to â€˜danceâ€™.
â€œThe challenge we have with local farmers is, today they supply us and tomorrow they gone to â€˜danceâ€™. As we speak, the shelf for eggs is empty because our local suppliers have not delivered.Â If as a supermarket we are inconsistent in stocking certain products, we risk losing customers,â€ he said.
Mr Mangimela has appealed to Government to pressurise local farmers to supply consistently good quality products.
Shoprite Zambia general manager Charles Bota said he would only comment if he was told who had availed the author the information on the matter.
Small-Scale Farmers Union president Frank Kayula said the restriction is good and long overdue.
Dr Kayula said the association had been advocating a ban to give preference to local farmers to supply the produce.
â€œIn fact, we should have a Statutory Instrument (SI) that will give even up to 30 percent preference for local produce,â€ Dr Kayula said.
He has proposed that the Zambia Bureau of Standard (ZABS) develops a scale of standards that local farmers should meet in the production and distribution of various produce.
Zambia Consumer Association (ZACA) executive secretary Samuel Simutanda welcomed the move and called for a co-ordinated system to enable farmers to supply produce consistently.
YANDE SYAMPEYO, Lusaka