By Jeff Kapembwa
Lusaka - Maize production in Zambia dropped 16 percent to two million tonnes in the 2018/19 farming season compared to a year earlier, spurred by various climatic factors as the Southern African state maintains a ban on exports of all maize related items to ensure food security.
Production slowed down to 2,004, 389 tonnes compared to 2,494,907 maize harvested a season earlier, representing a decline in production, Michael Katambo, Agriculture Minister, disclosed to The Southern Times in Lusaka on Wednesday.
Small and medium scale farmers are expected to contribute about 94/5 percent, representing 1,893,845 tonnes to the local total maize production with the medium scale farmers expected to contribute 110,544 tonnes.
National average yield rate declined to 1.29 tonnes per hectare from 1.72 tonnes per hectare last season. Small and medium scale farmers recorded an average maize yield rate of 1.24 tonnes per hectare.
Large scale farmers yielded an average 3.74 tonnes per hectare as prolonged dry spells experienced in the growing season took their toll on the staple food.
Dry spells affected the southern, western and eastern parts of Lusaka and central parts of the country, creating a negative impact on the production of not only maize but various crops, including wheat.
The production effects were compounded by the fall army worm that attacked maize fields covering 215,735 total hectares, forcing government to fall back on output from other sources, including maize carry over productions to ensure food security.
Areas expected to be harvested also reduced by 22.4 percent to 841,693 hectares from 1,086,006 hectares in the 2017/18 season. Of the total of 1,557,313 hectares affected under maize this season, only 841,693 hectares or 54 percent of the area planted is expected to be harvested.
Katambo dispelled fears of national food insecurity, arguing the country had enough stocks for human and industrial consumption until the next harvest in 2020 with the country’s Food Reserve Agency expected to actively partake in the market and ensure there is pile up in the national strategic reserves.
In addition to the two million tonnes harvested, the country seeks to fall back on the carryover stocks amounting to 474, 515 tonnes as at May 1 this year.
“Of this amount, the FRA is holding 303,475 tonness, the Grain Traders Association has 51,474 tonnes, Millers Association have 21,204, Large Scale Farmers have 36,362 tonnes with Small and Medium Scale Farmers having 62,000 tonnes.
“The total maize supply available for 2019/2020 is therefore 2,478,389 tonnes,” added Katambo. Zambia’s 18 million population requires 1,961,357 tonnes, with 1,558,339 being for human consumption.
Zambia, however, seeks to maintain the ban slapped on all exports of maize and maize meal products to ensure the illegal exports of the corn are curtailed through strengthened existing measures.
Katambo said production of other crops like groundnuts, mixed beans, and burley tobacco will vary with some increasing harvests while others have had their rates dropped by various percentages.
Soya beans production is expected to decrease by seven percent to 281,389 tonnes from 302,720 tonnes, and burley tobacco is expected to decrease by 20 percent to 9,176 metric tons from 11,512 metric tons.
Production of seed cotton is forecast to drop 17.8 percent to 72,508 tonnes from 88,219 tonnes last season with Irish potato expected to rise to 38,786 tonnes from the 13,546 tonnes in the 2017/18 season, among other crops.