Zambia ups maize production
Lusaka – Zambia’s maize production rose 32 percent as the Southern African state recorded highest yield in history of agricultural production, and justifying calls by the government to diversify the economy into agronomy from reliance on mining.
Recently, Vice-President Guy Scott and Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda called for the diversification of the country’s economy at the height of the low copper prices on the international market, leading to the depreciation of the local currency, the Kwacha, by more than 13 percent since last year.
But the desire to diversify may soon be a reality as the country has projected to harvest a record over 3.4 million tonnes of maize, exceeding last year’s production of 2.5 million, according to the Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Wylbur Simuusa.
He told journalists in Lusaka on May 5, that, according to projections in the 2013/2014 Crop Forecasting Survey (CFS) for the just-ended season, maize output rose over 32 percent and making it the highest production season in Zambia’s history.
The survey indicates that 93 percent of the total production came from small- and medium-scale farmers while the rest was produced by large-scale farmers. In 2010/2011, Zambia produced 3.02 million tonnes, while in 2009/2010 it produced over 2.8 million tonnes.
The government would this year increase the number of beneficiaries in the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP), a provision of various inputs given chiefly to small-scale farmers to boost crop production, to one million small- and medium-scale farmers.
This, Simuusa said would ensure that the FISP fertiliser was distributed to the farmers by August 31, this year.
“This year’s good maize harvest provides the country with a good opportunity to adequately feed the nation and the potential to export the surplus crop,” he said.
Zambia, according to crop analysis, still had a maize carry-over stock of 597 192 tonnes, most of which was under safe storage with the Food Reserve Agency (FRA), private traders and commercial farmers.
“When we add this maize carry-over stock from last season to the forecast maize production for the 2013/2014 agricultural season, the estimate for the total available maize for the 2014/2015 marketing season is 3 947 863 metric tons,” he said.
The food balance sheet showed that an estimated population of 15.2 million people required 1 532 194 tonnes of maize for human consumption while 355 630 tonnes was needed for industrial use.
Zambia needs a total requirement for human consumption, strategic reserves, industrial requirements and other uses, estimated at over 2.8 million tonnes.
In addition, the CFS has indicated an increase in rice, tobacco, millet and groundnuts cultivation but with a decline in the production of cassava, soya-bean, wheat, cotton, sorghum and sweet potatoes.
This year’s harvest provides Zambia with enough food and opportunities to export the surplus maize to its neighbours with Zimbabwe expected to get about 300 000 metric tons of maize, while the some of it will be shared with other countries, including Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Kenya.
The minister attributed the increased yield to an increase in cultivated hectarage and the general increase in investment in the agriculture sector.
Other factors included an increase in the usage of fertiliser and certified seed in addition to increased investment in extension systems through recruitment of more extension officers and promotion of conservation farming practices.