PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu said there is need to focus on boosting productivity of all crops.
During the cashew nut planting exercise at Simulumbe Research Station in Mongu district yesterday, President Lungu directed the Ministry of Agriculture to ensure that innovative extension service delivery was made accessible to farmers countrywide.
He said there was great potential for cashew nut production in Western Province.
“I am hopeful that as we continue to record milestones in the cashew industry, through the cashew nut infrastructure development project, the whole nation will also appreciate the value of the cashew nut industry to the country’s economic growth,” he said.
President Lungu said he was confident that cashew nut production would transform the lives of many farmers in the country and the benefits will cascade to households.
He said promoting cashew nut production was one of the effective measures for supporting alternative livelihoods, and climate change adaptation.
President Lungu said Western Province comprises about 168,000 agricultural households and out of that number, about 80.7 per cent of households are maize growers.
He said the proportion of households growing maize in the provincpe was still very high despite maize production in the province not being as viable as it may have been in the past.
President Lungu said climate change and its effects on weather patterns in the western part of the country had made it very difficult for farmers to record good maize yields.
“Therefore, I am hopeful that as I join you today for this planting exercise, together, we will be sending a message to farmers in Zambia to practice climate smart agriculture. With the right mindset, and growing of suitable crops for the prevailing weather conditions in the country, there is absolutely no reason why farming should not be attractive,” he said.
President Lungu said cashew nut was tolerant to adverse weather conditions, and most importantly, it was a high value cash crop which could become a money spinner for Western Province.
He said it was his desire that all farmers in Western Province become wealthy from cashew nut production.
President Lungu said global projection indicates that by 2025, raw cashew production would be valued at US$10 billion.
He said the world cashew industry produces over 3.5 million metric tonnes of raw cashew nut; and more than half of that quantity was produced by African countries such as the Ivory Coast, Benin, Tanzania, Nigeria and Mozambique.
President Lungu said the government had invested US$55.4 million in Western Province, specifically to promote cashew nut production through the cashew nut infrastructure development project.
He said the government envisaged Zambia becoming a major player in the global cashew industry.
President Lungu said the project should be taken seriously because the country needed to make a return on the $55.4 million investment.
He said currently, Zambia was only producing about 850 metric tonnes per annum from about about 1.7 million cashew trees.
“And I know, we can do better than this.
On the positive side though, I have no doubt that the cashew industry in Zambia will be turned around, and will become a vehicle for wealth creation for many farmers in the country,” President Lungu said.
He however, said for that to happen, every Zambian needs to rally behind efforts by the government and its implementing partners to revive the cashew industry.