The Centre for Trade, Policy and Development (CTPD) says the shortage of mealie meal being experienced in the country is a wakeup call to government.
CTPD Executive Director Isaac Mwaipopo said the situation, which poses a threat to food security and has caused a lot of anxiety among citizens, especially in border towns needs to be acted upon by the Ministry of Agriculture.
This is according to a statement made available to the media by Centre for Trade, Policy and Development Communication Specialist Mwaka Nyimbili in Lusaka today
Mr. Mwaipopo has since advised that government through the Ministry of Agriculture should prioritize meeting the local consumption before attending to the export markets as they wait for the 2023/2024 harvest and marketing season.
He added that government should reconsider its policy decision to import mealie meal, stating that while the move will provide relief in the short term, it is likely to disturb the local producers and manufacturers if implemented long term.
“In order to address this situation which threatens food security, CTPD would like to advise government through the Ministry of Agriculture to consider the following options, to prioritize meeting the domestic consumption requirements before attending to the export market demands, with the strategic reserves now estimated to be around 300,000 metric tons, it will be critical that local consumption needs are prioritized in the short run as the country waits for the 2023/2024 harvest and marketing season,” he said.
Mr. Mwaipopo further proposed that government consider using the Zambia National Service and Zambia Correctional Service to grow alternative crops as the country’s growing population cannot be supported solely by the small scale farmers
He added that government should consider selling cheap maize from the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to state run milling plants and small players as opposed to selling to commercial millers, whom he said are more interested in making a profit and may not pass the full benefit to the end consumer
Mr. Mwaipopo has advised government to ensure full utilization of solar hammer mills to support the millers and further advised that farming inputs be distributed in good time to avoid the mistakes made in the last two farming seasons
“Solar Hammer Mills, revisit the Solar Hammer Mill Project, evaluate the performance and address any bottle necks they may have faced, this initiative still stands a chance to deliver results if well implemented.
“Timely distribution of farming inputs for the 2023/2024 production season, avoid the mistakes made in the last two seasons. Added to this will be the need to urgently conclude on reforms in the agriculture sector. There is need for the public to know what the comprehensive agriculture programme will look like,” he emphasized.