By HELEN ZULU in Mbala –
AGDEVCO has invested more than US$10 million to produce potato and maize seed in Mbala, Northern Province through two ventures.
This will be done in partnership with Buya Bamba and Saise Farming Enterprises Limited, and would allow for import substitution as well as create export opportunities for the crops.
Saise Farming Enterprises Limited director and manager Adrian Conradeie explained that AgDevCo was the lead investor and developer of Katito Farming Enterprises Limited and the Saise Farming Enterprises Limited which were both aimed at making Zambia self sustaining in terms of seed production for maize and potatoes.
Mr Conradeie said the Saise venture would help the country create a more reliable local supply and enable farmers grow potatoes using affordable seed to improve food security.
He was speaking when Finance Minister Felix Mutati and his National Development Planning counterpart Alexander Chiteme toured the projects in Mbala on Sunday.
Mr Conradeie said the Katito venture would focus on the production of seed maize and commercial maize.
“To date, we have invested about US$10 million in both projects, for the potato venture, we have invested about US$5 million which will double as our expansion rolls out.
“Our target is to make Zambia self sustaining in terms of seed potato, so we will not have to import seed into this country and beyond that once the country becomes self sustaining in terms of seed potato.
“We will start exports of seed potato, and through that the potato industry in the country will develop because seed will become more affordable, grow to supplement the maize and become more of a staple food,” Mr Conradeie said.
He said the aim of the projects was to make Zambia independent of imports of seed potatoes and make it become a self sustaining industry within the field.
Mr Conradeie said the Katito venture was still in the development phase with only six months passed since inception.
“Our biggest challenges are on getting the inputs, the distance is too long to get fertilizer and chemicals, so the cost of production becomes higher.
“And there is lack of market for the produce, we have to try to develop the local market, we are very keen to try and see what we can get from Mpulungu as an export point into our neighbours like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Tanzania, Burundi and the Great Lakes Region, that is what we want to work on once we develop sustainably,” he said.
Mr Conradeie said this investment would earn the country foreign exchange through exports and the potato industry would become sustainable as seed would be available and affordable.
And Mr Mutati noted that the country was currently importing almost 60 per cent of potatoes in various forms from other countries in the region due to non availability of seed which had been the main challenge.
He said from the out grower perspective, Government was going to come in to support out growers of potatoes by treating them as the anchor producers for seed potatoes.
Mr Mutati said Government was negotiating for some resources from the World Bank and African Development Bank (AfDB) which would be invested in the productive sectors including agriculture.
“So by bringing a venture such as this one, we will have double results such as seed production, substitution for imports but much more creating an opportunity for our people to grow potatoes, so we are creating employment, revenue stream, empowerment and through this we will be able to collect more taxes, agriculture being a business.
“So for Northern Province, we have picked seed cotton and coffee for development, we want to use our resources for the benefit of the people as much as possible not for maize,” he said.