FULL SPEECH BY THE ZNFU PRESIDENT AT THE 116TH ANNUAL CONGRESS HELD ON THURSDAY 27TH OCTOBER 2022, AT MULUNGUSHI INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE CENTER, LUSAKA
The President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr Hakainde Hichilema
The Minister of Agriculture Hon. Reuben Mtolo Phiri, MP
The Minister of Fisheries and Livestock Honourable Makazo Chikote MP
Distinguished Cabinet Ministers present
Cooperating Partners in our midst
The ZNFU Board of Directors and Trustees
Senior Government Officials present
Representation of Private Sector Organizations
Our Media Friends
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I welcome you all to the 2022 annual congress of the Zambia National Farmers’ Union. We are happy as farmers to gather in this manner through this annual meeting set to deliberate on the past one-year farming developments.
Mr President, farmers are encouraged by your consistent presence to grace this annual gathering of farmers. We are grateful indeed. And the bond you share with agriculture gives assurance to farmers that the UPND government is truly set to turnaround the sector onto a sustainable growth path. The Zambia National Farmers Union will continue to provide feedback to Government on what is working well and where there is need to for fine tuning.
Distinguished invited guests
When we last met in October last year, the new dawn administration had just ascended into office. The Union was quick to engage and provided details of the challenges, proposed solutions, and institutions responsible. Twelve months down the road Mr President, we must report that we have observed that your response to our requests have filtered through the public private dialogue forum (PPDF), a consultation initiative which you launched Mr President and the priorities set in the 2023 national budget presented to Parliament by the Minister of Finance. This is commendable as we feel that this process will also enhance monitoring of implementation.
Mr President, allow me to highlight some key areas of actions which government has committed to begin to resolve through the 2023 national budget;
- low productivity through directing resources towards extension services is commendable.
- problems of animal diseases by allocating resources and review of legislation.
- Rural roads and rural electrification.
- The increased allocation towards FISP is notable.
- The allocation towards Public Order and Safety is vital to resolve stock theft and crimes on farms.
- Selected tax related incentives for the sector where we saw taxes removed on milk cans and milking machines, game animals breeding stocks, biological control agents, vegetable seedling crop growing media and selected tree crop seedlings.
The highlighted measures signal a good start because once implemented the positive impact will be long term. Therefore, our emphasis is that implementation will be key.
Production and Marketing
Let me now turn to a quick overview of how we see the future of agriculture in the next twelve months. First and foremost, the effects of global developments have resulted in high costs of inputs, and this is a real challenge as farmers contemplate on what to plant commercially outside FISP.
Farmers are truly at a crossroad in terms of what commodities to grow in the 2022/2023 farming season. Therefore, whatever commodities are grown, Government policies in crop marketing will need to be sensitive to the fact that commodity prices will have to rise.
In this regard, what happened during the soyabeans marketing this year where a unilateral decision taken by the Ministry discouraged the participation of many buyers in soyabeans marketing is lamentable.
Mr President, Government was misled that installed crushing capacity by the processors in the country is the same as capacity to purchase all the primary produce grown in the country. This is not true because the few oilseeds processing companies have limited finances and storage capacities to buy all the crop. Further, the short shelf life and limited market for the cake and edible oil uptake are major factors in determining local stock requirements. Therefore, other players in the value chain are important and they require a clear export policy direction that soyabeans can be traded locally or exported.
Against this background, the Union supports local value addition and when local stock requirements for processing are catered for surplus primary products should be exported at export parity prices. This is key to sustain future primary production. When producer prices fall to unprofitable levels, farmers are discouraged to expand production.
What happened this year where few buyers participated in soyabeans marketing resulting in soyabeans prices crushing promoted short term gains at the expense of having a sustainable soyabeans value chain. Soyabeans farmers were short changed and are still aggrieved because of the negative effects of micromanaging of exports.
In brief, when the crop forecast was announced the stakeholders in the soyabeans industry made recommendations to the Ministry, but these were ignored. The value chain requires Government policy on soyabeans exports that is driven by all stakeholders’ and not one value chain player. For now, soyabeans can be exported BUT this decision was made two months late. Going forward, timely policy decisions will be critical in crop marketing.
Our appeal is that industry stakeholders’ consultations should always apply including to other agricultural commodities such as wheat, fruits & vegetables, beef, etc. We therefore want to encourage the Ministry of Agriculture to resume the industry driven stakeholders’ processes of consulting.
Costs of Doing Business
Farmers operate on thin margins because aside from targeting to produce efficiently to increase the volumes produced everything else is beyond their control. Therefore, Government support is needed to lower the cost of doing business because of local Council authorities agriculture levies. The outcry comes from all parts of the country. For example, charging a levy on maize bran transiting in a council area, charging a levy on every truck carrying wheat to markets, a levy on transiting inputs, kapenta, fish, etc. Yes Councils need funding, but the current approach needs to be re-visited. We believe that local councils should come up with innovative ideas that will respond to services required in the communities while raising resources besides targeting agricultural commodities.
The country has experienced outbreaks of animal diseases such as CBPP, ASF, FMD, etc. Farmers have observed instances where blanket bans have been applied to curb the spread in certain instances. We appeal to Government to engage stakeholders when dealing with disease outbreaks. Also, to be aware that blanket bans are hurting farms that are bio-secure and disease free.
For example, when the African Swine Fever outbreak was detected in the recent past, the ban was blanket and when markets re-opened, the market became flooded, collapsed prices, which disincentives farmers. Stakeholder engagement is vital.
We also would like to appeal to the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock to become proactive and not reactive when dealing with livestock diseases. The Union would like the Ministry to develop an animal health care programme from the time an animal is born so that livestock farmers are well oriented in animal health and disease protection measures through scheduled calendar tips.
Policies and Law Reforms
The Union has observed that Government is undertaking review of policies and legislation. We would like to make an appeal through you Mr President that the Statutory Organisations and sector Ministries engage stakeholders in the initial stages for consultations. This is because we have had situations where cabinet approval has been obtained then we are consulted and nothing changes. In certain cases, consultations have happened when the bill is at the Ministry of Justice and when the bill is taken to Parliament, our views are not reflected. In a recent incident, we learnt from the media that the GMO policy is under review. We have written to the Ministry of Green Economy and Environment to ascertain whether there is truth in this and that we be included. So far, the Ministry has yet responded.
Farmers will be affected the most in case of a change in this policy area hence early consultations are necessary.
My appeal is that the laws and policies under review should be shared with us through the Public Private Dialogue Forum (PPDF) long before going to Cabinet so that we share the viewpoint of farmers. We are concerned with the speed of the policy and law reforms which pose a risk of stakeholders not contributing towards reforming of existing laws yet they will be impacted in future.
On the other hand, we have observed that the law to promote Industrial Hemp cultivation was enacted sometime back but there is inaction on implementation. Some farmers are eager to diversify into cultivation of industrial hemp as an alternative crop. We appeal to Government to review this matter and commence implementation of the law without further delay.
In closing, and on behalf of the farmers, we want to express our gratitude for accepting our invitation. With the few points we have shared with you, be assured that farmers are prepared to work hard with the support of government providing an enabling environment.
Let me end by extending a big thank you to the sponsors of this event. A gathering of this nature always takes a lot of effort and planning with financial support from many players. I therefore take this opportunity to thank the following;
The main sponsor Corteva Agriscience
[list to be provided]
Finally, to the management and staff, keep up the good work.
I thank you all.
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