The Zambia National Farmers’ Union lead the engagement with all levels of Government because of farmers’ good intentions to produce and guarantee grain availability in the country instead of importing.
The Zambia National Farmers Union says all efforts to grow early maize to boost the country’s stocks levels of maize to cover the national requirements before the new rainfed harvest have been mutilated because of load shedding.
Union President Jervis Zimba says not withstanding the assurances made that power supply will be available to ensure productive sectors such as agriculture continue to operate, the situation in the farming areas has turned for the worst as farmers have now been hit by 18 to 21 hours of load shedding every day.
Mr Zimba says sadly, the maize which was planted earlier is now wilting while what was recently planted is stressed at the germination phase.
He said it is disheartening that there are residential areas that are not load shed at all and this is clear evidence of misplaced priorities in determining who should not be load shedded.
Mr Zimba said it is also difficult to determine which door to knock on to get the right answers which are frustrating.
He said the ZNFU has written to both the utility company ZESCO Ltd and the Ministry of Energy and are waiting for feedback.
Mr Zimba said to say that the energy crisis is the final nail in the coffin for the farming sector in Zambia is an understatement because the anticipated losses from the futile efforts to grow irrigated maize are astronomical hence false hopes that power would be made available for maize production should have never been created in the first place.
He said it is also important to realize that the frustrations which early maize farmers are facing is only but a tip of the problems which farmers are going through because sugar out-grower schemes are faced with withering cane plants, tree crop investments such as coffee, avocado, macadamia and citrus fruits which take years of sunk costs are withering, time for curing of tobacco is here and costs are escalating because of diesel-generated power for curing, not to mention the cost of running must have cold chain facilities required for fisheries, livestock products and fruits/vegetables which are highly perishable products.
Mr Zimaba said justification for powering the agricultural sector is so compelling in comparison to other sectors.
“Hence, we need to know by how many hours the Mining, Hotels and other sectors are subjected to load shedding in comparison to primary agriculture for transparency and equity. Truth be said, someone within the Energy Sector (be it at the Ministry of Energy or at the power utility) should be made accountable for failure to take timely measures to counter the energy crisis which has crippled the country”, he said.
Mr Zimba said not only will farmers incur massive losses for getting involved in growing maize under irrigation but within agriculture, there are so many other industries badly affected as stated.
He said what is happening in the highest order of negligence as the country has plenty of pool of skilled manpower which could be properly utilised in planning to avert such crisis.
Mr. Zimba said when all is said and done, the ZNFU can only offer farmers counsel at this stage to exercise great caution before engaging into new ventures as the risks in farming evolve continuously as the current situation attests to the fact that human-induced risks are a difficult catastrophe to predict.
“Can you imagine that the private sector rewards some people who do nothing but frustrate Government efforts by paying them salaries through hard-earned taxpayers’ income? Our verdict is that heads should roll over what is happening in the energy sector because the crisis keeps raging; farmers can only turn to Government for explanations”, Mr Zimba added.