Times of Zambia surpassed my expectations late last week when they penned this fantastic editorial on maize exports :
Zambian Consumer Association (ZACA) executive secretary, Muyunda Ililonga has obviously missed the point in calling on the Government not to export maize after the country’s bounty harvest.I touched on the folly of export restrictions in previous posts, including A better vision for Agriculture.
According to 2009 crop forecast, the national maize production stood at 1.9 million tonnes as the national consumption is 1.6 million tonnes, leaving an excess of 300,000 tonnes as maize surplus. This simply means that production had exceeded demand locally and that is why many small-scale farmers have been crying that only the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) is giving them a realistic price for the produce.
While the Government may not be able to offer a higher price for maize through the FRA, we feel another way in which to help the farmers is through increased investment in the agriculture sector. Such investment is only possible with adequate resources and that is where the export of surplus produce can help earn the Government foreign exchange.
Although it is true that Zambia needs to build strong strategic food reserves to fall back on in times of need, the truth of the matter is that all this was considered in reaching the decision to export maize to countries such as Kenya. In fact, stakeholders on the monitoring committee looked at local consumption before allowing the export of the commodity.
It should firstly be appreciated that the production of maize is not just about consumption – it is a business and Zambia will be doing herself a great disservice by holding on to the surplus maize, which is on high demand elsewhere in the region. As Zambia National Farmers Union president, Ndambo Ndambo says in the story we carry today, the Government consulted stakeholders before allowing the export of the maize.
We feel there is no cause for apprehension over the Government’s plans to export maize to countries with deficit after a bumper harvest of 1.9 million tonnes and a surplus of more than 300,000 tonnes of maize.