(By Masuzyo Chakwe and Isaac Zulu)
The Zambia National Farmers’ Union has welcomed the government’s decision to allow export of mealie-meal as this will allow the country to utilise the export window into countries where there is demand. ZNFU media and public relations Calvin Kaleyi said the policy announcement would also contribute positively towards preparation for marketing of the new crop as there is now hope that excess carryover stocks of maize would be reduced.
“In fact, the ideal situation from the farmers’ point of view is that export of both maize and mealie-meal should have been allowed because the final decision of what will be exported is dependent on the importer at the destination point,” he said.
Kaleyi further said ZNFU supports the consultation process and provision of credible stock information to government and pledged to give “this mode of operation maximum support so that the maize industry can develop sustainably.”
“As industry players, we are aware that anyone trying to procure maize at this juncture should be willing to pay for the carrying costs because of storage and financing costs hence a willing seller and buyer may be found locally or in the export markets,” said Kaleyi.
But Milner Mwanakampwe said the lifting of the ban on exportation of mealie-meal would threaten national food security.
Mwanakampwe, who is the UPND Central Province youth chairman, said that the lifting of the ban was done immaturely because stakeholders have not yet taken stock of the maize crop available in the country to feed citizens.
“It is unfortunate that the government has decided to make this critical decision at a critical time when stakeholders in the agriculture sector have not yet conducted a crop survey for this agriculture season. It is also a well-known fact the army worms had invaded some farmers’ maize fields in some parts of the country and the government had to buy chemicals to spray in the maize fields. It is also a fact that we have experienced prolonged dry spell this rainy season and partial drought in some parts of the country, especially in Southern Province,” explained Mwanakampwe in an interview. “With all these compounding factors, some maize crops have been drying up even before harvesting. And it would not be wrong for one to state that the decision by the Minister of Agriculture to lift the ban on exportation of mealie-meal is a huge threat to national food security, especially that we have not yet taken stock of what we have in the strategic food reserves across the country in order to meet the staple food required to feed citizens across the country.”
Mwanakampwe further charged that the lifting of the ban on exportation of mealie-meal was meant to protect some PF officials that were involved in the smuggling of the commodity.
“We are also aware that some individuals from political parties on the Copperbelt Province were recently apprehended in connection with the smuggling of mealie-meal into the neighbouring Congo DR. Therefore, the lifting of the ban on the exportation of mealie-meal could be a scheme aimed at protecting PF officials that were illegally ferrying mealie-meal to the Congo DR. This decision by the Minister of Agriculture raises a lot of suspicion,” said Mwanakampwe.