The Minister of Finance and National Planning in Zambia, Dr. Situmbeko Musokotwane, has stated that the current challenge of high demand for grain and other agricultural products in the region presents an opportunity for economic growth in the country. The high demand for grain, particularly maize, has caused mealie meal prices to rise in Zambia, negatively impacting the people. To address this, Dr. Musokotwane has emphasized the need for Zambia to quickly produce larger agricultural surpluses that can be exported, thereby earning the country dollars and creating jobs.
Dr. Musokotwane noted that the existing small, medium, and commercial farmers will play a crucial role in the production of more food for export. However, he highlighted that the export market is significant, and additional skills and capital will be required to meet the demand. To unlock higher economic growth, the government is working on various initiatives, including farm block development in agriculture. This initiative aims to improve agricultural production in the country by introducing models that encourage large-scale and small-scale producers to work together to produce material for a processing factory.
Dr. Musokotwane acknowledged that while the growth of Zambia’s economy was driven by the ICT, transport, and education sectors in 2022, it was subdued in key sectors such as agriculture, mining, tourism, and manufacturing. To achieve higher economic growth, the government is finalizing the formulation of the Comprehensive Agriculture Transformation Programme (CATP) and developing the National Crop Diversification Strategy. These strategies will enhance production and productivity of a diverse range of agricultural commodities and products. The government also wants the mining sector to be one of the key drivers of growth to attain copper production of three million tons per year.
The government has heightened security against illegal exports and encouraged the local private sector to import mealie meal from surplus countries for sale at border areas in towns next to countries with a deficit of food availability. Nevertheless, Dr. Musokotwane has emphasized that the ultimate solution to food deficits in the region is to produce more food and export it to countries in need. The implementation plans for the farm blocks are nearly ready, and the money to establish them is available. Work will start within a few months, and the marketing of the farm blocks will begin soon.