JACK ZIMBA, Lusaka
A LOCAL commercial farmer has called on Government to protect potato growers from cheap imports from South Africa.
Stuart Cooke, who is managing director of Chartonel Farms in Lusaka, said a lot of cheap potatoes are allowed onto the Zambian market from South Africa, which is disadvantaging local farmers.
“Cheap imports are really affecting us. Our new crop is just coming in, but they have flooded the market with cheap imports from South Africa. Zambia is being used as a dumping ground for South African produce. Only when the price in South Africa is very low do they sell here and that affects our market in a big way,” Mr Cooke said.
He said the local potato growers are able to satisfy the market.
“We are capable of supplying the market throughout the year. We are on the market selling 11 months of the year, and I’m confident we can supply the market,” he said.
Chartonel Farms, which employs 260 people, grows about 200 hectares of potatoes in Lusaka, producing 12,000 tonnes of the crop every year.
Mr Cooke has invested about US$5 million in potato growing. Recently, he invested in a potato washing and packaging plant to meet the quality demands of the local market.
“If these imports keep coming, then obviously we are going to struggle to make our repayments to the banks,” Mr Cooke said.
He said there should be protection for people who have invested in the agriculture industry.
And Mr Cooke said using foreign exchange to import a product that is produced locally does not make sense.
“We should be looking after our foreign exchange, and it’s not only potatoes but there is imported water, which is just ridiculous,” he said.
“I believe that there is need to bring in some kind of control as to what is imported. If it’s available locally, we should support local industry and encourage people to produce more,” he said.
And Buy Zed managing consultant Evans Ngoma said Government’s desire to diversify the economy should be matched with promotion of locally produced crops.
He observed that many farmers have gone into growing of cash crops, but are facing stiff competition from imported produce from neighbouring countries.