The government says it is amending the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) act to address among others, issues surrounding the export of maize.
Vice President Inonge Wina who was speaking in Chipata when she held a meeting with the Zambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ZCCI) said the current restrictions on maize export is not meant to punish farmers, but an effort to safeguard lives by ensuring there is enough food in strategic reserves.
She disclosed that the government fed up to 2.7 million disaster victims in 2018/19 and part of 2020.
Ms Wina was responding to concerns raised by Chipata District Farmers Union Chairman Vigil Malambo who said the government should allow farmers to export maize especially in instances where FRA fails to give a competitive price.
He said the current situation is not benefitting anyone as farmers have opted to smuggle the commodity.
“Government should consider giving export licenses to traders who will be paying tax to allow them sell the grain anywhere, this way everyone will benefit”, he said.
In her response, the Vice President said the act has been tabled to parliament with the view of amending it to maybe consider giving export permits.
“Government is working with the FRA act to see how best this can be done so that hopefully, changes can be made with regards to exports in the next marketing season”, Ms Wina explained.
She further said government targets to reserve 1 million tonnes of maize every year but has had a challenge with grain marketers who rush into buying the grain even before the moisture content adequately drops.
She said some of the people who buy maize are foreigners who sometimes follow farmers in their respective fields to buy the grain.
“Because of this trend, FRA finds limited stocks by the time it starts buying. This is why government is forced to put in these restrictions, to ensure there is enough good to respond to unforeseen situations” she noted.
The Vice President used the platform to thank the Chamber for the role it has been playing in safeguarding business and being a key development partner.
And Zambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ZCCI) Vice President Laurian Haangala appealed to government to encourage companies it deals with to register with ZCCI as a way of getting assurance that such companies are genuine.
Mr Haangala noted that ensuring that companies register with the chamber will also give confidence to foreign investors.
“It is important that business companies belong to the Chamber, this will rule out uncertainties on the genuineness of such companies. And government is key in ensuring this is attained”, he said.
The chamber also tackled among others, the effects of covid- 19 on business in the region saying business has been negatively affected imploring government to make it easy for local companies to seek redress.