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High mealie-meal prices irk Lungu

PRESIDENT Lungu (right) receiving a briefing by Keren Motors Managing Director Berhane Kibrom (second right) and Mkushi Urban Roads Site Manager Nsikwe Nsanganya (third right) during a tour of township roads in Mkushi yesterday. PICTURE BY SALIM HENRY/STATE

CHIMWEMWE MWALE & CHAMBO NG’UNI, Mkushi
PRESIDENT Lungu says Government could be forced to intervene to make mealie-meal affordable in regions where people are being exploited.
He has also directed the ministries of Finance and Agriculture to revisit some of the taxes in the agriculture sector with a view to scraping them to help boost farming into becoming Zambia’s economic mainstay.
President Lungu is disappointed by the high cost of mealie-meal in Mkushi despite it being a high maize producing area.
“I want to know why here in Mkushi the price of mealie-meal is so high,” President Lungu said during a public rally at Mkushi grounds yesterday.
He said the high prices of mealie-meal in Mkushi amount to economic sabotage and that his Government will be forced to intervene so that people can access affordable mealie-meal.
“If I intervene those who are talking about the free market should not complain because they have started this. We are doing our best and our best is to be close to the people and ensure that they access basic food cheaply, and basic food is mealie-meal,” Mr Lunga said to a cheering gathering.
And at a meeting with teachers the President said business houses must reduce prices of goods in view of the Kwacha rebounding.
He urged technocrats and PF members to help explain the prevailing economic fundamentals to the people in the wake of the recovering Kwacha.
Mr Lungu said it is unfortunate that some sections of society that were very critical have kept quiet about the appreciation of the local currency.
Meanwhile, President Lungu has asked Minister of Local Government and Housing Stephen Kampyongo and the Road Development Agency (RDA) to investigate what has caused the delay in constructing township roads in Mkushi.
Mr Lungu said people are looking forward to having better roads but Keren Motors Limited has delayed the project and in two years the contractor has only tarred three kilometres out of 20.2 kilometres.
And speaking to journalists before his return to Lusaka, President Lungu said Government will consider ways of effectively engaging the Zambia National Service (ZNS) to help boost the agriculture sector as the mainstay of the economy.
He said there is need to engage ZNS in the drive as serious large-scale farming is demanding, requiring concerted efforts.
“We are going to sit in the defence council meeting and see what we can do. They (ZNS) will have to do the roads, open up some areas, clear land to facilitate the installation of electricity in certain areas. Serious large-scale farming requires electricity, and that is why we also want to explore solar energy,” he said.
President Lungu also urged government leaders to visit their constituencies and inspect developmental projects under construction.
He said MPs should “take a leaf” from him and visit construction works.
Mr Lungu said failure to do so has resulted in some contractors doing shoddy works and swindling Government out of colossal sums of money.
Meanwhile, President Lungu has said Cabinet ministries and other relevant bodies must review the taxes to determine which clauses impede the growth of the sector.
Mr Lungu said this here on Tuesday night during a meeting with scores of Mkushi commercial farmers who tabled various issues concerning the agriculture sector.
Mr Lungu said his administration will not hesitate to scrap taxes which hinder growth of the sector because Zambia should diversify and depart from being a copper-dependent economy.
This was after commercial farmers, through their representative Andrew Moffat, presented their concerns to President Lungu, who is on a working visit in Central Province.
“The Ministry of Finance and other relevant bodies will revisit the taxes in the agriculture sector and check which ones are helpful or which ones can be done away with,” he said.
And President Lungu called on farmers to continue dialoguing with Government over challenges they are facing to find solutions.
Mr Lungu said there is need to find solutions for high production costs to enhance viability of the agriculture sector.
President Lungu said there is also need to increase the budgetary allocation to the agriculture sector to boost farming.
He called for crop diversification and urged the livestock sector to improve by learning best practices from other countries that export beef and other products on a large scale.
President Lungu, however, cautioned farmers against bad farming methods which are environmentally unfriendly as the world makes efforts to combat climate change.
“World leaders are meeting in France as we speak to discuss and find solutions to this same challenge of global warming… and if we don’t give it attention, we may find ourselves living in a desert,” he said.
Mr Lungu is concerned about high levels of deforestation evidenced by high charcoal production.
He said there is need to correct the situation through tree-planting and controlled harvesting of forests.
President Lungu has, meanwhile, assured investors that Government has continued to make efforts to provide a conducive environment for the establishment and growth of businesses including farming.
Other concerns raised by the commercial farmers were security of land tenure, the energy deficit and an insufficient local and international market for their produce.
Small-scale and emerging farmers’ representative, Richard Lisimba, also called on Government to lower taxes on farming implements to help local farmers mechanise production.
Mr Lisimba cited other farmers’ needs as dip tanks, dams, access roads and extension services.
President Lungu has since returned to Lusaka after his tour of duty in Central province.



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