THE Zambia National Farmers Union has called for the expeditious lifting of the maize/mealie-meal export ban to enable sales to take place as the country prepares for the next marketing season.
ZNFU president Jervis Zimba and agriculture minister Michael Katambo, accompanied by new permanent secretary Songowayo Zyambo, met on Tuesday to discuss operational modalities on how the agriculture sector can be revamped going forward.
Welcoming Zyambo, the union reiterated its commitment to dialogue and consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture as it is the anchor for agriculture development in the country.
According to union media and public relations manager Kakoma Calvin Kaleyi, the duo agreed to create a platform for periodic discussions to take place in a coordinated manner so that there are no surprises on both sides even when the parties agree to disagree.
The ZNFU highlighted some pressing issues which need urgent action by way of consultation and action.
“Among the issues discussed were the importance of uplifting of the maize/mealie meal export ban quickly to enable sales to take place as the country prepares for the next marketing season, the need for government to prioritise funding for the agriculture sector so that come marketing time farmers will be paid on time and inputs positioned on time at planting time. The union bemoaned blame being heaped on farmers for poor yields, yet farmers are paid late, and inputs are supplied late,” stated Kaleyi.
He stated that other issues discussed include the need for credible data to guide policy decisions (declaring a surplus through the crop forecast then banning grain exports; sending conflicting market signals), the importation of agriculture products taking place at the expense of expanding local production when the country should be harnessing production at all costs.
“Farmers facing financial distress due to policy inconsistencies and external factors resulting in foreclosures. The tobacco industry, a commodity which is a leading foreign exchange earner is now gripped with uncertainty and new costs imposed by new statutory bodies threatening the viability of farming hence the need to reposition the sector for growth,” he stated.
Kaleyi stated that the union was confident that a first step had been set and that the platform for dialogue would materialise soon so that the issues are tabled, solutions proposed, and implementation followed through.
Meanwhile, Katambo said he was committed to work with stakeholders so that the sector speaks with one voice.