By Lumbiwe Mwanza
IT is disappointing that we are importing US $2 million worth of fruits every week when we can produce all these locally if we invest more in irrigation schemes, Fruits and Vegetables Association of Zambia president Bernard Sikunyongana has said.
Speaking to The Scoop this morning, Mr. Sikunyongana says local farmers have the capacity to produce more but that lack of appropriate policies in the sub sector with regard to production and marketing of commodities has hampered growth.
“We cannot be importing US $2 million worth of fruits every week which we can easily grow. Zambia can grow oranges, apples, grapes, pears and all those fruits we are importing. All the Government needs to do is to introduce more deliberate policies that will enhance irrigation and creation of selling centres. Where do local fruit farmers sell their fruits? There is none. All they do is sell along the streets which should not be the case” Mr. Sikunyongana complained.
He says the starting point to stopping these imports that are costing Zambia huge sums of money is to invest more on irrigation and then provide a readily-available market for farmers by creating fruit selling centres in each province with a view of promoting the cultivation of fruits and vegetables at large scale for export.
He says every part of the country has favorable climatic conditions for certain fruits and vegetables which just need availability of abundant water hence need to put up more irrigation schemes.
He says with irrigation schemes in place, the Government can then champion the establishment of fruit selling centres which are critical towards encouraging more farmers to venture into fruit farming thereby reducing importation of fruits and vegetables into the country.
“You know, when you are running an irrigation scheme, farmers are able to produce fruits two times a year based on what is planted. If this is done, the Government must then ensure that it puts up policies that ensure there is creation of irrigation schemes in each district,” he said.
He says the private sector has a role to play in boosting the economy and that this is why the agricultural diversification agenda should be advanced by all.