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Thursday, 3 February 2011

The Folly of Food Export Bans

"It is quite clear to me that if exports of staple agriculture products are not liberalised, the commercial farmers will only grow crops which they will export because they sell these in forward markets even before they plant...In terms of exports, the paradox is that small-scale farmers are the ones who grow the staple crop and if there is a surplus, then there is an export ban, by the time a decision is taken to allow for exports, the prices will have come down...It is my objective assessment that this situation keeps the small scale farmers in perpetual poverty."
COMESA secretary general Sindiso Ngweny essentially repeating what many others have e.g Food Security and Trade Restrictions, Problem of Expediency and A Better Vision for Agriculture.


  1. The main reason the staple food is largely small scale is that commercial farmers legally have to pay at least the minimum wage or a union agreed wage. If maize is unecoomic at that labour cost it means that we expect a small scale farmer and his/her family to work for much less. Sad.
    The economics of importing or exporting depend on the rate of exchange which is excessively affected by copper. The benefits of import/export are also affected by high costs of doing business in Zambia and high taxation. The transportation costs should ensure that is cheaper to grow a product than to import but this is not usually the case. This leads to the local prices being forced down and producers going out of business. Producing, processing and exporting a product employs thousands. Importing and distributing can be done by very few people. If Zambia needs more employment we should be doing everything possible to favour exports and discourage imports. Instead it's the opposite.

  2. I don't see that, at over $200 per tonne, labour costs are the constraint on commercial farmers growing maize.

    The truth is that even at $200 per tonne, tea, coffee, tobacco and all the other cash crops have a much higher price per tonne or hectare.

    What is needed, is that small farmers can sell their crops at wholesale prices, and that there is enough storage space, which as we have seen with the last bumper harvest, there was not.

    Also, a surplus of maize could be processed in Zambia - boxed cornflakes, hard liquor (bourbon), etc.

    The problem is not that people are earning too much money.


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