NANCY SIAME, PRISCILLA MWILA, Mkushi
CABINET will soon meet to formulate policies to prop local farmers. This includes restricting the importation of selected food items and increasing surveillance on smuggling, President Lungu has said.
The President said Government wants to be consistent on policies that promote agriculture to make it the number one sector in the country.
He said Government wants to encourage more people to venture into agriculture by providing attractive incentives in the sector.
President Lungu said this yesterday when he addressed farmers in Mkushi after conducting a field tour of selected farms.
“We have been too liberal by allowing the importation of crude oil, food products and smuggling which has disadvantaged our farmers. By the time I leave office, I want agriculture to be number one,” he said.
The President challenged ministers and members of Parliament to listen to the farmers’ cries over matters such as bad roads.
He wondered why foreign-owned chain stores have continued importing foodstuffs such as fruits which are readily available in Zambia.
And President Lungu has pledged to ensure that farmers get title deeds for their land to encourage increased productivity.
He said this when he visited Joe Daka’s Farm where the owner, Joseph Daka, complained about the challenges farmers are facing to acquire title deeds on traditional land.
“There should be no challenges in obtaining title deeds. If you find corruption along the way, alert us,” the President said.
Meanwhile, Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) president Jarvis Zimba has complained about hiked electricity tariffs and asked that a special tariff be created for farmers to lower the cost of production.
Mr Zimba, however, thanked President Lungu for visiting the farmers in Mkushi to get first-hand information on their challenges and their needs, which has encouraged them to work even harder.
“No official will cheat you on what is going on in the agriculture sector because you are well informed,” he said.
Mkushi Farmers Association acting chairperson Poena Van Niekerik thanked President Lungu for his efforts aimed at uplifting the farmers’ welfare.
Mr Niekerik commended the President for managing the country’s power deficit in the last two years which cushioned the impact on the farmers.
He appealed to Government to consider reducing the 10 percent export tax on farm produce and products to enable farmers to grow their market.
“Zambia has recorded a bumper harvest of maize, but with very little export potential which may result in waste if nothing is done in good time,” Mr Niekerik said.
Earlier, President Lungu toured selected farms which included Joe Daka’s Farm and Agri Options Limited. He interacted with the farmers.
He was impressed with the production at the farms and took time to harvest maize using a combine harvester to the delight of onlookers.
President Lungu also addressed hordes of waving local people. He assured them of his commitment to addressing their challenges.
He has since returned to Lusaka.