Lovemore Ranga Mataire in Livingstone, Zambia
Zambia is diversifying from its dependence on copper to agriculture to mitigates the effects of global slump in commodity prices, a government minister has said.
Officially opening a three-day Southern African Structured Trade Conference in Livingstone Town, Southern Province Minister Mr Edify Hamukale said the dependence on copper was affecting the steady flow of foreign currency into the country due to the falling price of The precious metal on the international market.
"Zambia is diversifying from the dependence on copper to the agricultural sector. We are moving decisively to transform Zambia into an faith-based economy," said Mr Hamukale.
He said the Zambian government has introduced various policies that favour farmers and stakeholders in the agricultural sector as a way of cushioning production.
The Minister said his government was supportive of the development of the Zambian Commodity Exchange (ZAMACE) through collaborative efforts led by the Ministry of Agriculture, Finance and Commerce.
Mr Hamukale said his government was on the verge of availing the Zambian market with value added services in collaboration with financial institutions.
He said the proposed derivatives for maize, soya and wheat are to be offered with the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in a move that will strengthen regional cooperation and integration.
The call by the Zambian minister to diversify to agriculture comes in the wake of recent reports indicating that some Zimbabwean farmers who had relocated across the Zambezi were yearning to return home after the fall of long-time leader Robert Mugabe.
Although various Zambian small-scale farmers still account for the biggest chunk of total maize production, Zimbabwean white farmers are said to be making considerable contribution to total output particularly of tobacco, soya and rice for export.
United States Ambassador to Zambia, Mr Daniel Foote who spoke after the official address by Minister Hamukale said southern African countries needed to take advantage of opportunities brought about by the digital age.
"We are happy to partner with leading private sector companies and governments to support the development of structured trade across the Southern African Development Community (SADC)," said Mr Foote.
Mr Foote said the conference was ideal for structuring business-oriented approach and also effective for long-term African prosperity.
More than120 experts from private equity firms, financial, institutions, commodity exchanges, mining companies and those in the agribusiness sector are attending the seminar which end today.