President Hakainde Hichilema yesterday launched the 2023 wheat harvest season with a call for increased crop production and value addition.
Mr Hichilema said the mechanism would help grow the economy so that jobs and business opportunities are created, as well as value-addition to crops such as soya beans and wheat.
He was speaking when he launched the Zambeef 2023 wheat harvest in Mpongwe on the Copperbelt.
President Hichilema said that in the past, maize was unprofitable at the point of production, and because of that, the Government made a decision to increase the crop price to attract farmers to produce more.
President Hichilema was delighted that Zambeef and other producers had positively responded to the United Party for National Development (UPND) administration’s call for increased agriculture production which led to a record harvest of wheat this year.
He said the UPND took over office at an unfortunate period when the world was faced with security instability coupled with challenging climatic conditions that had affected prices of vital commodities such as fuel and food.
The President said that the government moved swiftly to address the situation by offering incentives to Zambian farmers and challenged them to increase food production in the country.
He added that, as a response to the global food crisis, there was a realisation that it was the duty of citizens to address problems on their own rather than to rely on outsiders.
He noted that currently, there was pressure on the price of mealie-meal because neighbouring countries looked to Zambia for the supply of the commodity.
“This is the reason why farmers should increase crop production to meet the demand, by taking advantage of the attractive price of maize offered by the Government through the Food Reserve Agency (FRA),” he said.
The President, who took time to demonstrate how harvesting of wheat was done when he drove a combined harvester, commended Zambeef’s record harvest which demonstrated the country’s vision of moving towards the projected threshold of one million tonnes of wheat.
He added that the company’s contribution to the vision was commendable.
“The yields from here are nine tonnes per hectare, when most of our farmers produce less than two tonnes per hectare in this country, so, nine tonnes per hectare of wheat in the same year, nine tonnes per hectare of maize or soya beans. What a wonderful yield. But all that is possible because of this water, quality of the soil and your crop management.
This is the message I want to deliver to the people of Zambia that we can improve our productivity as Zambeef has done it,” he said.
Mr Hichilema commended Zambeef for increasing the hecterage in Mpongwe and actualizing its pledge of investing US$100 million in the facility.
He urged the company and other commercial farmers to work with the local community and support them in their own farming enterprises so that they were able to embrace the business as their own.
“We can improve our productivity as Zambeef has done. Through a diversity of skills we can learn from Zambeef and other farmers who should also support small scale farmers to scale up their productivity,” he said.
Zambeef chief executive officer Faith Mukutu said 1100 hectares of wheat was planted at the Mpongwe wheat farm adding that the company had invested $100 million.
Ms Mukutu said the crop being harvested at nine tonnes per hectare translated into 40,000 tonnes of winter wheat grown in Mpongwe.
She said that 10,000 tonnes were expected from the Chisamba and the Chiyawa farms.
“This development is part of the plan to enhance food security and creation of, jobs We do plant a bit of maize but with the good prices being offered today, the commercial farmers will now start cultivating more maize because they are guaranteed that it has become a profitable crop. With the country planting more maize, it will go a long way in stabilizing the mealie meal prices,” she said.
And Zambeef board member Monica Musonda said the Government’s agriculture policy in addressing challenges faced by farmers was encouraging.
Ms Musonda said to double the crop production focus should be on value addition.