Officials of the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) have decried the increase in food prices in Zambia and are calling on the government to consider increasing support to the agricultural sector.
In a statement, JCTR officials say food prices have an influence on Zambia’s cost of living and inflation.
The Jesuit scholars say food prices “have a strong influence on inflation over the years, and thus potential food shortages may cause a rise in the cost of living.”
“The JCTR also recognizes the importance of food items in influencing the cost of living and achieving nutritional outcomes, and thus advocates for increased support to the agricultural sector,” they say in the statement dated December 12.
They further say that the agriculture sector employs about 70 percent of Zambians “and is the principal income earner for people living in rural areas.”
“Government must prioritize the expedition of procurement and delivery of input to farmers to limit the risk of low agricultural production which could threaten food security,” officials of the Lusaka-based research, education and advocacy Jesuit institution say.
They laud the Hakainde Hichilema-led government for scaling up budgetary allocations of the Farmer Input Support Program (FISP).
They say the country’s leadership needs to ensure that FISP comprehensive support program process “is transparent to prevent politicization, corruption, favoritism and/or exclusion of some beneficiaries.”
“Government in pursuit of agricultural mechanization needs to ensure predictability in the business environment,” JCTR officials say, and add, “While the intention of ensuring cost-reflective fuel pump prices is progressive, the level of uncertainty has the potential to prevent private actors from investing heavily in the sector.”
“Zambia Revenue Authority must continue to upscale monitoring and awareness interventions to limit tax evasion and drive compliance,” the Jesuit scholars say in their December 12 statement, adding that “this is important in reducing the tax arrears reported in the Auditor General’s 2021 report.”
Collected tax revenue, they further say, “can be further allocated to the agriculture sector to reach more small-scale farmers.”
JCTR officials also urge the government to “enhance financial inclusion, especially for rural farmers to ensure disaster preparedness and better access to farming inputs.”
“Government must keep implementing pro-poor policies to ensure the most vulnerable people in Zambia are cushioned from the high cost of living,” they say in the December 12 statement.