The Zambia National Farmers’ Union has welcomed the decision by ZESCO to withdraw the tariff application made to the Energy Regulation Board (ERB).
ZNFU President Evelyn Nguleka said the Union believes this move by ZESCO will now help farmers increase their production of irrigated crop particularly in areas that are experiencing dry spells in the country.
Dr Nguleka added that it will be easier for farmers to engage in planting winter crops including wheat, sugar cane and barley in the next few weeks.
She said these crops require affordable electricity to support massive irrigation regimes for improved productivity to achieve food security for the nation while earning foreign exchange from exports of the surplus crop.
“It was indeed difficult and costly for farmers to undertake meaningful irrigation when electricity tariffs had increased by 350 per cent for farmers falling under the MD category at a time when commodity prices have remained low on both local and international markets,” she said.
Dr Nguleka said the Union is, however, aware of the limited progress recorded so far in growing the energy sector largely due to the electricity tariffs that have remained low for a long time.
She said ZNFU has always advocated for a phased approach in electricity tariff increments as opposed to a huge one-off increase that would have not only have undermined crop and agro-processing, but also threatened food security in the country.
“It is our sincere hope that dialogue between government and private sector players will continue in arriving at an appropriate level of electricity tariffs that would attract more investments in the energy sector while at the same time supporting primary production in agriculture.”