By JAMES KUNDA –
PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu wants Government to come up with measures to protect local farmers from unfair competition from imported agricultural commodities such as fruit and vegetables that are locally grown.
Addressing the 112th Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) annual congress.in Lusaka yesterday, Mr Lungu directed his ministers of Agriculture and Commerce, Trade and Industry, Dora Siliya and Margret Mwanakatwe respectively, to come up with policies and administrative measures to help regulate the influx of imported agricultural commodities flooding local shops and markets.
“Farmers should not be left to the whims of unfair competition induced by importation of similar products and Government has no excuse but to protect farmers from unfair competition,” he said.
Mr Lungu assured farmers countrywide that the Government was doing everything possible to make the business friendly environment for both crop growers and livestock farmers to flourish.
He observed said farmers could only make sense of the Government’s agricultural diversification agenda once production of crops, livestock and fisheries became profitable.
“Agricultural development and food security will only be sustainable if food production is diversified, made more market-oriented and profitable for all players in the value chains,” President Lungu said.
The congress, convened at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre, was held under the theme ‘Sustaining agriculture in shrinking markets’.
Mr Lungu said the Government was also addressing the current crop marketing challenges to avoid slowing down the momentum of the country’s economic diversification agenda.
“Government is focused on making farming the mainstay of our economy for enhanced household food security, poverty reduction and increased income generation by our people,” the President said.
Mr Lungu said the cost of borrowing was another key factor driving the cost of agriculture production high and following the stabilisation in the exchange and inflation rates’ interest rates should also drop.
He stressed that sustaining agriculture in shrinking markets required farmers and other value-chain players to improve production by adopting knowledge and technology-intensive smart farming methods.
At the same occasion, Ms Siliya stressed the Government’s commitment to empowering farmers, saying farming inputs worth K1.9 billion would be allocated to farmers countrywide in the 2017/2018 crop growing season.
ZNFU president Jervis Zimba urged the Government to sustain the trajectory of implementing farmer-flexile polices.