Zambia in record harvest
• Govt support input scheme pays off. • Country exports to Nam, Zim and DRC. Lusaka – Zambia’s unprecedent harvest of 2.8 million tones of maize will mean the country will have to sell it to neighbouring countries who have a deficit. The Food Reserve Agency, Zambia’s quasi-government wing said it is actively considering exporting about 160,000 metric tones of the crop to Namibia, Zimbabwe and Democratic Republic of Congo, among others. Agency spokesperson Mwamba Siame said there have been inquiries from among other countries Namibia and Zimbabwe to import part of the 160,000 tonnes earmarked for export, after the country harvested 2.8 million tones of maize in the 2009/2010 agriculture season. “We have received inquiries from most of our neighbouring countries to export some maize and we are now making final touches before we formalise contracts,” she said. “We should be undertaking the exports as soon as all formalities are done with the respective countries.” She would not say how much individual countries had requested. She said efforts had been made to secure funding for the purchase of all the crop in various parts of the country, including lending institutions, at concessional rates and ensure that all the crop was bought and collected from outlying areas in the country from farmers and stocked in reserves ahead of the rainy season due in October. Zambia harvested 2.7 million tonnes, an increase of 48 percent from the 1.8 produced the previous year. The social economic effect of the record harvest in the maize value chain has been phenomenal, especially in rural Zambia. The increased harvest of maize have been attributed to various incentives put in place by the government to encourage farmers to grow the crop. These include subsidies on inputs including seed, to enable more farmers grow the crop at relative low loan returns to the FRA. Recently, Agriculture Minister Peter Daka urged farmers in the country to pass the benefit to the consumers through reduced cost of the staple food. It was Government’s expectation that the price of mealie meal would reduce drastically to make it more accessible to the ordinary person. Several milling companies have since responded to government’s call to reduce costs on the staple food with many reducing by an average of three and four percent for breakfast (fine meal) and roller mealie meal respectively. “As Government our position is that there is no reason why the price of mealie meal should remain high following the historic bumper harvest the country has recorded. It will only be fair that the prices are reduced for the benefit of Zambians,” Daka said. The record yield has been attributed to the positive policies put in place by the Government in the agriculture sector, such as the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) and the enhanced extension services. Zambia had a maize surplus of 1,085,709 tonnes and the increase in the number of people on the FISP programme from 200,000 to 500,000 also contributed to the bumper harvest. During the presentation of the 2010 crop forecasting survey in Lusaka recently, Daka said the only time Zambia had a crop output close to this year’s was during the 1988/89 farming season when a production of 1,943,219 tonnes was recorded. Joseph Mulenga, a farmer on the outskirts of Lusaka and one of the beneficiaries of the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) after it was extended to cover 500,000 farmers from 200,000 said he was happy with government’s policies on agriculture. According to him, he managed to increase maize production significantly as a result of FISP, thereby contributing to the maize bumper harvest. The support had assisted him to efficiently and effectively manage his maize field, resulting in increased productivity and was confident that this year he would be able to increase the production of maize and other crops. “I stand here as a testimony because I am one of the beneficiaries of the FISP,” he said. Northern Province Permament Secretary Mwalimu Simfukwe said he was happy with the performance of farmers in the area, who had harvested more than 80 000 tonnes of maize. It was government’s desire to give farmers incentives and introduce good agricultural policies and programmes aimed at attracting more investment to the sector, he added.