PRESIDENT Lungu has unveiled a three-option plan to deal with the looming food crisis in the wake of a devastating drought that has hit most parts of Zambia.
Special assistant to the President for press and public relations Amos Chanda told journalists in Mfuwe on Tuesday shortly after Mr Lungu wrapped up his three-day visit to Eastern Province that one of the options the President is considering is the growing of irrigated maize to meet the shortfall.
The second option on the President’s table is to engage the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) and farmers’ union to “mop up” all the maize in the country, as well as to assess the deficit.
Mr Chanda, however, said there is information from both the millers and farmers’ union that there could be sufficient maize in the country.
Mr Chanda said if it is established that there is a deficit and local farmers cannot grow enough irrigated maize to fill the gap, importation would be considered as the last option.
“The President is committed nevertheless, whatever the option, to ensuring that there is sufficient food in Zambia and no-one will starve,” he said.
Mr Chanda castigated United Party for National Development (UPND) president Hakainde Hichilema for criticising the President’s plan to avert hunger.
“When you criticize the three options, then you want the Zambians to starve so that you can extract political capital out of that,” he said.
Mr Chanda said it is wrong to seek success on the back of national failure.
“Mr Hichilema wants Zambians to starve and then he goes to them and offer himself as a messiah; that opportunity will not come because the President will ensure that there is enough maize,” he said.
Mr Chanda said President Lungu will ensure that money is found for maize imports, if it comes to that.
He said the President’s appeal to the opposition is that “there comes a time when the nation must rally behind one cause and ensure that the poor are not disadvantaged”.
Mr Chanda said the maize Government could import is not stockfeed, as some people are suggesting, but it is white maize similar to the one grown and consumed locally.
And Mr Chanda said President Lungu wants a gradual increment of electricity tariffs in order to lessen the impact on the poor.
He was responding to a question as to whether President Lungu intends to renege on his recent decision to revert to old Zesco tariffs when he called for sacrifice in reference to the power crisis affecting the nation at a public rally in Sinda.
Mr Chanda explained that when the President called for cost-reflective tariffs in Parliament last year, the idea was to have gradual increment rather than a “sharp shock” adjustment.
He said the plan must be done in a way that it does not hurt the poor.
And Mr Chanda said President Lungu is happy with the response he received during the tour of Eastern Province and that he would soon travel back to the province to visit the remaining districts.
On his road tour, the President visited seven districts: Luangwa, Nyimba, Petauke, Sinda, Chipata and Mambwe, covering over 700kms by road.
The President also held closed-door meetings with Chewa, Ngoni, Nsenga and Kunda chiefs.
Mr Chanda said that during the private meetings with the chiefs, the President asked them to help in fighting tribalism, stop political violence, as well as to help in identifying areas and families that will need food aid.
Mr Chanda said the chiefs assured the President that they will help to fight tribalism and also offered their support to the government in its development plan.