Wednesday, July 17, 2024

High Cost of Living in Zambia: Mr. Charles Kakoma Shares his Views on Tackling Food Inflation

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“The high cost of living in Zambia has become a nightmare,” says Charles Kakoma, a senior citizen and an avid observer of the Zambian economy. “People are sensitive about food prices. They will probably complain less about the high prices of clothes or beer, but when prices of food go up, it becomes a rallying point for de-campaigning the government.”

Kakoma reflects on the past experiences of the country, saying, “The UNIP government of President Kenneth Kaunda experienced food riots in the 1980s. One can also argue that the Patriotic Front Government of President Edgar Lungu was booted out of power in 2021 partly because of the unbearable high cost of living, especially high Mealie-meal prices.”

The new UPND government had raised high expectations among the citizens for reducing the high cost of food. However, Kakoma laments that people are now complaining about the high cost of food in general and Mealie-meal in particular.

When asked if something can be done about food inflation, Kakoma answered, “The answer is yes.” He explains, “While in opposition, the UPND planned to bring down the cost of food. In terms of agricultural policy, it was decided to do away with subsidies on consumption and channel the money to subsidise production. It was correctly analysed that Mealie-meal was expensive because of the high cost of inputs like seed, fertiliser and weed killer.”

However, Kakoma points out that the solution has not been implemented in the manner it was envisaged, saying, “Out of the over 3 million farmers in Zambia, only 1.2 million are being assisted under the Comprehensive Farmers Support Programme, popularly known as FISP. The irony of the matter is that 1.2 million farmers are getting subsidised inputs at K400 for 6 bags of fertiliser while the 1.8 million plus farmers are buying fertiliser at an average of K1000 per bag. After harvesting, all the farmers are expected to sell their maize to the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) and millers at the same recommended price regardless of the costs incurred. How do the unsubsidised farmers compete with the subsidised farmers?”

Kakoma calls for a change in the policy direction, saying, “The policy direction should be to bring down the cost of inputs for all farmers. This can be achieved by cutting off middle men in the supply chain, producing the inputs locally in the country, curtailing corruption in the award of tenders for the supply of inputs and progressively increasing the number of small scale farmers accessing FISP.”

He adds, “The success of the UPND government will depend on putting food on the table; cheap food for that matter. Specific interventions are therefore needed in the agricultural sector to drive down the cost of food.”

For example, Kakoma says, “The favourite relish for many people in Zambia is chicken. The rising cost of chicken is making it difficult for many families to have chicken and nshima at the table. The chicken is becoming expensive because of the high cost of maize stock feed. In order to bring down the cost of chicken, there is need to bring down the cost of stock feed. In the short-term, FRA should supply cheap maize to millers to produce cheap stock feed. Similarly, many children like eggs. The cost of eggs can come down by producing cheap stock feed from FRA maize.”

Kakoma believes that the key to the economic prosperity of Zambia lies in agriculture, saying, “Economic prosperity should be driven by agriculture. Countries like Indonesia and the Asian Tigers leaped from poverty to prosperity through agriculture. They had to embark on the agrarian revolution which later

6 COMMENTS

  1. Well articulated ba Kakoma. Keep it up father. Don’t be like Mushumba who is talking about free education as an achievement.

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  2. GRZ needs to participate in mealing, otherwise the private sector cares more about profits than people’s affordability.

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  3. I am not completely convinced by Charles Kakoma. One of the problems we face is that we have too many farmers who are not as productive as they should be. With this many farmers and so much land, no grain or cash crop that Zambia needs should be in short supply. But we have shortages because our farmers are not knowledgeable about the crops the market (both local and foreign) is looking for and in what quantities.

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  4. One important aspect that Kakoma has positively identified is the consumption subsidy and that’s what makes the maize sector a bottomless pit. Why can’t we learn something from RSA? There’s never a shortage of maize in RSA even in the absence of Govt subsidy and food is relatively cheaper. We must also be honest. FISP has become a manner spinner for connected persons. This has been so since inception. If the UPND can deal with that then we can have hope but their behavior so far isn’t different from what we saw under LPM through to ECL. They have just uninstalled the Nyiombo-Neria cartel and replaced it with the Jangula syndicate. The ideas exist but the will to implement them doesn’t.

    • Ayatollah, there’s nothing to learn from South Africa except discrimination and exploitation. 72percent of their Land is owned by white farmers. and white businesses owns about 20percent. Black’s are 90 percent of the population but own 4 percent of the land mostly in Kwazulu Natal. The owners of farmland are very successful commercial farmers and they vary their produce from maize, wheat, all the major grains subtropical fruits etc. So Zambia is on the right path since it is refining exploitation and inviting other exploiters abroad to come join in the competition of greed

    • @Farmer Cyst, but what are white farmers doing that makes maize production sustainable? That’s the lesson we must learn from them and not the politics of land ownership. Leave that to Julius Malema. Across the Zambezi, most of the farms that were taken from Zim white farmers have been run down! I didn’t say we should about land ownership from RSA

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