External factors which are beyond Zambia’s control, such as the high cost of fuel and fertilisers are threatening food security in the nation, President Hakainde Hichilema has said.
The President observed that the unstable prices of such commodities were in turn threatening the gains that the country had so far made in debt restructuring efforts.
Mr Hichilema said this when a delegation from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and European Union (EU) called on him at State House in Lusaka yesterday.
“We are facing increased inflationary pressures arising from some factors that are beyond our control as a country. The drive on the cost of fuel, the drive on the cost of fertiliser is causing us issues.
“Let me put it bluntly, food security is threatening the gains we have made in our restructuring efforts and I need you, the EU and our friends globally to be aware that we need to open our eyes around the issue of food security, which, if not managed properly would negate the gains that we have made,” President Hichilema said.
He said Zambia had always been self-sufficient in food but suddenly, it was visible locally that there was pressure for food from neighbouring countries.
“We see it from the pressure of the rising cost of mealie-meal driven by the pressure of smuggling of our own grain here, we are making efforts to contain this, but we can see that it’s huge,” he said.
He reiterated Zambia’s need to focus on addressing overall food production and the low production of food.
Mr Hichilema said he was grateful to the EIB for supplementing the Government’s efforts in the agriculture sector through the signing a €20 million deal with First Capital Bank to support smallholder farmers in Zambia on Tuesday.
He also said that the EU’s contributions towards Zambia’s development were well appreciated.
He observed that the EIB was executing a number of projects in Zambia which were creating jobs and contributing to economic growth, among other benefits, and commended the bank for seeking new opportunities in Zambia.
Mr Hichilema said the Government’s critical focus was to turnaround the country’s economy.
“We want to confirm to you that we will work with the European Investment Bank, with the European Union, to continue looking for the most viable projects because those tend to have the biggest impact on the economy,” President Hichilema said.
He restated the resolve to completely conclude the debt restructuring process and appealed for continued support from the EU.
EIB vice-president Thomas Östros, who was visiting Zambia for the first time, said the bank had been active in the country since 1978 through investment in various areas such as water and sanitation as well as involvement in the Great East and Great North roads works.
“Me coming here now is a signal that we want to continue and strengthen the partnership with your country and we are ready to go further with the projects that we are rolling but, we are also interested in looking for new projects that we can do together,” Mr Östros said.