By Bennie Mundando

LET US stop wasting our time facilitating for imports on products which we can produce locally and divert our energy towards value addition by putting up agro processing industries, the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) has said.

Speaking to The Scoop yesterday, ZNFU president Jervis Zimba said the Zambian agriculture sector had remained fragile and was at the mercy of foreign products because of the country’s high propensity to consumption of foreign products, a feat foiling back value addition efforts and rendering economic diversification initiative mere rhetoric.

He said while President Edgar Lungu had passionately preached about transforming the sector to becoming the backbone of the economy, reckless import permit issuance had remained a deterrence.

When people talk about imports, we must understand that imports are damaging the agriculture sector. For instance, let us look at tomatoes. Why are we spending millions of Kwacha importing tomato curry in the country when in actual fact we should be able to see industries staring up in Central and Southern Provinces where there are plenty of tomatoes?

If you walk in chain stores in this country, you will find peanut butter coming from South Africa but why are we importing peanut butter yet they are using the same groundnuts which we are exporting out of the country in their raw form thereby exporting jobs? We are giving other countries foreign exchange because we are demanding for the finished products whose raw materials we are supplying at a very cheap price,” Mr. Zimba said.

He said farmers were willing to produce more provided they had the market and that if there was a deliberate undertaking to ensure that in every province there was an agro processing hub, Zambians would be consuming locally-produced products.

We need to be careful. As a country, we must be preoccupied with attracting SMEs to come and invest as opposed to wasting our energy on championing regional and global trade concessions which still come back to haunt us as a country. Instead of the Ministry of Commerce running to Ethiopia to sigh these regional trade agreements, we want to see them engaging more with local SMEs. They must go round to see that whatever is produced locally is manufactured locally.

When we do that, there will be a turnaround in the agriculture sector. The Head of State has been on us regarding diversification and this year, I can tell you that we are going to produce a lot of crops but we need protection. Why should people be crying about bringing in refined cooking oil into Zambia when we should be looking at how much groundnuts Eastern Province can produce per year, set targets for the province, and then use the groundnuts to produce cooking oil through the agro processing hubs?” he asked.

He said those who were in the habit of appending signatures on imports must search their hearts.

Even when somebody is appending a signature to allow a chain store to bring in carrots in the country, I mean, my heart bleeds. How do you import carrots, potatoes, onions, and tomatoes? These are the things we have been advising the line ministries against and we are working behind the scenes that these things must never enter our country anymore.

Zambians cannot die in three months if we do not import potatoes and by so doing, we are creating local market for our farmers for them to produce more potatoes and not a situation where a local farmer is growing the product but when you go into these chain stores and Soweto Market, you find plenty of stuff coming from South Africa,” he said.

This should not be the case. It should come to an end. Protocols or no protocols, the union has made a stand that we must now produce our own. We must learn from these issues of COVID. Have you seen what has happened world over? We must learn lessons. Let us put unnecessary regional protocols aside and encourage ourselves to produce our own local stuff. Then, if we have excess, we will export to those who do not have have.

The whole issue is, we are wasting a lot of foreign exchange. So, line ministries must come on board and support this initiative. Why is the country spending so many dollars on importation of foreign products when we can have a small factory in Mkushi, Kalomo, or Mpongwe producing tomato curry and supplying chain stores every day?” he asked.

What is destroying all these things is purely uncaring people who just want to import. When you import, you are not creating jobs. You are only satisfying an individual. Someone called me the other day blasting me over why we are standing against importing refined cooking oil and I asked him where our soya beans go.

Three years ago, we had so much cooking oil in this country that we failed to sell because of this cheap stuff which was coming from outside the country. We had to ask the Government to stop importing refined cooking oil so that the local could also sell,” he said.


  1. m

    Look at the price of K25kg mealie meal average K140 how much was 50kg maize K130 on average..Zambian industries thieves.how much is cooking oil 2.5 litres average K100…Don’t buy from thieves because you will be encouraging stealing.

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