Zambia to export maize to drought hit neighbours
Lusaka – Zambia is planning to sell about 1 million tonnes of maize to neighbouring countries hard hit by drought and floods which have decimated their harvests.
Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), are some of the countries desperately in need of maize to supplement their low harvests.
Last year, Zambia set aside over 500 000 tonnes of corn for exports to Zimbabwe and other neighbours, after the country realised over 3 million tonnes of maize following bumper harvests in the past three seasons.
Agriculture Minister Given Lubinda says while the country will put aside about 500 000 in reserves for future consumption, there are plans to sell off one third of the 3.2 million tonnes of maize and talks were underway with the neighbouring States.
Last year Zimbabwe bought 150 000 tonnes from Zambia.
Lubinda however, declined to elaborate how much Zimbabwe and other countries would need.
Given the carry over grains from the previous seasons, Lubinda noted that Zambia has excess grain of about 1.4 million tonnes, much more than is required for domestic consumption.
But some stakeholders in the agricultural sector have expressed concerns over plans for the maize export, following poor rainfall in most parts of the country.
The last time Zambia faced a serious grain deficit, resulting in the country importing yellow maize was in 1992.
However, after devising various schemes to improve the agriculture sector including incentivizing small scale farmers, the country has since become the regional bread basket, providing food relief to its neighbours in recent years, after it improved its yields to over 3 million tonnes.
According to reports from the region, all is not well in South Africa, the continent’s biggest corn producer and traditional supplier to neighbours, with the nation predicting a 32 percent drop in the 2015 harvest, the worst in eight years.
Botswana said crops are showing signs of “total failure” due to below-average rainfall, while floods in Malawi and Mozambique have affected production, fuelling concerns of hunger.
Grain SA, the largest representative of cereal crop farmers in South Africa, says the agency expects the country to have a surplus of at least 100 000 tonnes of white corn, enough to meet the needs of the country and neighbouring Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland until the new harvest in May 2016, Bloomberg quoted Chief Executive Officer Jannie de Villiers as saying.
Zimbabwe has bought 56 997 tonnes of white corn from South Africa since the start of the marketing year in May last year, or 12 percent of the country’s exports, data from the South African Grain Information Service shows.
Lubinda told the Zambian Parliament on March 18, that there are plans to export maize at the average price of $195 to $240 per tonne.
Prices for white maize in other countries in the region including South Africa, reports say, have risen about 27 percent this year and was trading around $226 a tonne.
Lubinda hopes that increased exports will offset the cost of reintroducing subsidies on the crop for local consumers as well as assist prop up the local the currency (the Kwacha) that has plummeted over 19 percent on a year to year basis.
Following his announcement of the reintroduction of the corn-consumer subsidy in Parliament on March 17, which came into effect on March 23, Lubinda said it was the country’s desire to export the excess corn while keeping some in reserve.