(Zanis)-President Hakainde Hichilema says there is a need to address the issue of food shortage in the country by practicing smart trading.
Speaking when he met the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU), Grain Traders Association of Zambia (GTAZ) and water harvest delegation at State House on Wednesday, President Hichilema said Zambia should not be experiencing a mealie meal shortage when it is endowed with fertile land to produce crops in large quantities.
ZANIS reports that President Hichilema stated there is need for the country to be able to produce and process enough grain for domestic consumption while also satisfying the export markets.
The Head of State thus called on stakeholders in the agriculture sector to help the Government deal with the rigidities hindering smooth running of the sector so as to increase production and investment.
The Head of State noted that farmers and grain traders have been under utilising the endowment and underperformed in terms of business, so the Government wants to trigger higher ambitions for agriculture to take its place in the economy.
“We are all aware of what has been going on in the country around the mealie meal shortage, particularly on the Zambia Congo border, followed by Tanzania border and Zambia Malawi are the main areas that have shown this issue of shortage and it’s important that we immediately deal with this matter,” President Hichilema stated.
The President said the issue of food insufficiency borders on security matters, therefore, calling for immediate interventions together with the stakeholders.
President Hichilema added that Zambia is one of the seven countries on the continent leading the food sovereignty of Africa team to address the continental food insufficiency.
He explained that the political leadership has been realised for self reliance by increasing production and processing so that countries can trade in value added products.
President Hichilema said Zambia will be used as a pilot country for the food sovereignty Africa initiative.
The Head of State referred to the Russia and Ukraine war as a learning process for the continent to be self reliant in terms of food production.
He noted that Zambia ought to take advantage of the market opportunities by putting in place resources to address the challenge of mealie meal shortage so that there is no re-occurrence.
Mr. Hichilema said meeting with the stakeholders is necessary for sustainable solutions towards the country becoming a production, processing and distribution centre of the commodity.
President Hichilema stated that the country is capable of feeding the entire continent while also having enough for domestic consumption.
The Head of State also stressed the need to invest in water harvesting and efficient irrigation systems for purposes of improving crop production of above two tonnes per hectare.
Meanwhile, ZNFU President Jervis Zimba wants the agriculture sector to be depoliticised so that farmers do not lose direction in their day to day work and also need for a policy direction.
Mr. Zimba stated that agriculture being a business, should be commercialised if Zambia’s potential of 7.5 million tonnes is to be actualised.
And GTAZ President George Liacopolous said that it is critical to embrace agriculture as a business.
Mr. Liacopolous commended the Government for the open border policy that gives confidence to members and for business to develop.