Lusaka - Zambia’s largest farmers union has asked the government to implement consistent grain marketing policies to encourage sustained production and enhance food security.
Last week, Agriculture Minister Michael Katambo instituted a temporary ban on maize exports.
He said this was to allow the Food Reserve Agency to stock one million tonnes of maize as a strategic reserve in line with a presidential directive.
The agency has reached about 60 percent of the target.
Zambian maize is in demand in Southern Africa, with the DRC, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe in particular buying grain from that country.
“We have temporarily banned all exports until we are food secure,” Minister Micheal Katambo Katambo told The Southern Times.
The export ban is only applicable to small-scale farmers and does not include irrigated winter maize.
However, the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) urged the government to review the ban, saying the moratorium was hurting smallholders who rely on exports to make ends meet.
The union said this also meant small farmers would find it difficult to plant a new crop in the upcoming summer season.
“We expect the government to initiate consistent policies that will give value for all players in the value chain and encourage full production of the crop than export restrictions,” Mr Calvin Kaleyi, the ZNFU spokesperson, told The Southern Times.
The government buys maize locally at about US$6/50kg against prices of
US$12-US$15/50kg offered by buyers in the region.
“The region is looking very, very good for Zambia to make good returns on its maize yields but we cannot export because of these new restrictions,” said Mr Kaleyi.
A study by the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute says inconsistent export policies cost the country US$1,4 billion between 2008 and 2016.
The think tank - in the report titled “Getting It Right: How to Make Grain Trade Work for Zambia” - says export bans create market distortions and discourage private sector investments in agriculture.
Privately sold maize from Zambia is attracting an offer in the range of US$230 per tonne in the region.
Minister Katambo projected Zambia’s national maize output to reach 3,3 million tonnes in the 2019/2020 summer season, up from 2,4 million tonnes the previous year. The country had a maize carry-over stock amounting to 179,247 tonnes as at May 1 this year.
Small and medium/scale farmers are expected to contribute up to 93 percent or 3,160,185 tonnes of the total maize production, while the large-scale farmers are expected to produce 227,284 tonnes.
Zambia has a national annual maize requirement of 1,961,357 tonnes, with about a quarter of it going to feedstock and industrial use.