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Lifting maize exports ban may negatively impact the poor – JCTR

THE Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection says lifting the ban on maize exports might impact negatively on the poorest poor who solely rely on maize meal.

It stated that the current unpredictable weather patterns could have an effect on production of maize, which might affect the price of mealie-meal.

“Lifting of the ban during a dry spell period may threaten food security and possibly cause an upward rise of the cost of mealie-meal locally. With the already high cost of living in Zambia, lifting of the ban could further increase the cost of living if not well managed as most households would now have to pay more for mealie-meal due to increase in prices. With the lifting of the ban, producers would most likely prefer the export market, where they would earn more, to the local one. This would significantly reduce the availability of the commodity locally thereby causing an increase in the price locally,” JCTR stated.

It has called on the government to legislate consistent policies on mealie-meal exports to avoid the back and forth pronouncements of export bans. JCTR stated that the country needed policies that encourage farmers to produce maize throughout the year and ensure food security and stability of mealie-meal prices. JCTR stated that the February 2019 Basic Needs Basket (BNB) for a family of five in Lusaka stood at K5,331, which was K64 less than the January BNB of K 5,395.35.

It stated that the most significant changes were noted in fish, which increased by K9 from K131 in January to K140 in February per kg due to the fishing ban.

JCTR stated that mealie-meal increased by K3 from K83 in January to K86 in February per 25Kg.

It stated that Kapenta reduced by K23 from K202 in January to K179 in February per kg. Beans reduced by K5 from K27 in January to K22 in February per kg.

“Despite the high cost of living as shown by the basic needs basket, in the recent past government through the Minister of Agriculture, Mr Katambo, lifted the ban on the export of mealie-meal. The export ban on mealie-meal was passed to stabilise domestic food prices and ensure domestic food security. Export bans are widely used globally, regionally and in Zambia to protect domestic markets and citizens amidst uncertainties in supply or demand of basic commodities or services,” it stated. “Apart from ensuring that domestic producers and suppliers are well protected, export ban warrants that strategic reserves are maintained. The lifting of the ban might contribute positively to Zambia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the Balance of Payments (BoPs) through increased foreign earnings from export revenues.”

JCTR stated that staple foods account for the majority of household expenditures for both rural and urban poor.
It stated that price hikes thus had potential to deny the poor access to commodities and to jeopardise the food security of rural and urban poor consumers.

“Therefore, a further increase in the price of mealie-meal may endanger the social and economic wellbeing of the poorest of the poor by denying them access to the commodity. The JCTR notes with worry that preferential option for the poor is being lost, especially that their social concerns are not put first with regard to the lifting of the ban. We further urge the government to closely monitor and regulate the amount of mealie-meal being exported to avoid shortages and price hikes of the commodity in the long term,” stated JCTR.

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