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State bans wheat importation

ESTHER MSETEKA, Chisamba
GOVERNMENT has with immediate effect banned the importation of wheat saying Zambian farmers have the capacity to meet local demand.
This follows the country’s deficit in wheat which was estimated to run out by March this year prompting Government to approve the importation of 75,000 tonnes of wheat.
During the launch of the 2015 wheat harvest at Zambezi Ranching and Cropping farms on Wednesday, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Given Lubinda cautioned farmers not to charge their commodity above the import parity price.
Mr Lubinda said the importation of the commodity will only be allowed if local supply is exhausted.
“The one thing for sure is that whoever comes running to the ministry asking for an import permit, the answer is a categorical no. I will not allow the importation of wheat. I want to inform the citizens that I am not in a hurry to allow importation of commodities as long as they are locally available.
“We are a Government that takes precautions when handling imports and exports matters…Let me also appeal to farmers not to abuse [ban of wheat imports] by increasing prices. Let everyone involved in the value chain be responsible,” he said.
Meanwhile, the country is expected to harvest about 330, 371 tonnes of wheat this year against the national consumption requirements of 310,000 tonnes annually, a surplus of 28,371 tonnes.
Earlier, Zambia National Farmers’ Union second vice president Graham Rae said although this year’s wheat production has reduced marginally by 7,862 tonnes, the country is anticipated to have an exportable surplus.
Mr Rae attributed the reduction in yield to load shedding and lower water level, which is affecting irrigation.
“There is need to ensure that the local wheat market is not eroded. At worst case scenario, wheat imports should only be allowed between April and July [if there is a] shortage,” he said.
He said this will give farmers space to market their crop harvested in the previous year and guarantee market for the next season to enable them to repay the loans obtained for production process.



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