Zambia To Import Maize from South America
ARTICLE WRITTEN AND SUBMITTED BY MIKE MWENDA
Zambia plans to import maize from South America as drought is expected to cut the 2015/2016 maize crop by a third to avert hunger, state media reported last week.
“The government is looking for possibilities of importing maize from South America as the entire region does not have enough maize stocks,” President Edgar Lungu is quoted as saying in the Zambia Daily Mail.
Zambia’s maize stocks would only last until June, Lungu told the newspaper. Lungu’s spokesman Amos Chanda has confirmed.
The southern African nation harvested 2.6 million tonnes of the staple in the 2014/2015 season and drought could slash this year’s output by 30 percent.
Millions of people in southern Africa face hunger because of a drought that has been exacerbated by an El Nino weather pattern.
Meanwhile, the Zambian Alliance for Democracy and Development (ADD) leader Charles Milupi has ridiculed the Zambian President’s claims that Zambia faces maize shortages and may have to resort to importing the staple, according to a Thursday media report.
Other criticism levelled at the Zambian government included claims of agricultural mismanagement.
Addressing a meeting of tribal chiefs on Tuesday, President Edgar Lungu said Zambia may be forced to import maize from South America due to poor harvests following the drought.
“I’m worried about the prevailing weather pattern in the country because we don’t know what we are going to do as a government as we only have maize that will last up to June,” The Zambia Post reported Lungu as saying.
“It’s not possible that one region can feed the entire nation, so we have to think of importing maize from South America without delay before other countries in the Southern region who have no food as well finish it up,” said Lungu.
However, Milupi said it was illegal for the government to import maize when Zambia’s Food Reserve Agency was exporting the commodity to other countries.
“It does not make sense in a country like Zambia to start thinking of procuring maize from South America when, in the last four to five years, we have been producing bumper harvests and we created the Food Reserve Agency, which is supposed to be in charge of keeping strategic reserves,” said Milupi.
“Where are the strategic reserves?”
Further criticism was levelled at the Zambia president by a source in that country’s Agriculture Ministry, who preferred to remain anonymous.
“Huge amounts of maize have been crossing borders … forgetting that our own people here require maize,” the anonymous source was quoted as saying by the Zambia Post newspaper.
“This situation should teach us as a people and as government the importance of diversifying our crop production. Over-reliance on maize will not work.
“We can survive on other crops like rice and cassava but there is too much money just going into maize production. Agricultural policies need to be changed.”