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COMESA happy with Zambian decision to reverse import ban

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) says it is happy with a decision by the Zambian government to rescind its earlier resolution to ban the import of agricultural produce.

COMESA Assistant Secretary General Kipyego Cheruget said banning the import of commodities within the market is a tedious process, and such a ban can only be enforced after the approval of council ministers.

“We are happy with the position of Zambia. If there was an attempt to ban imports, we would have written to the government of Zambia to remind them of their obligations to COMESA,” Cheruget said.

Earlier last month government announced the ban on such imports after complaints by farmers, who claimed it put them at a disadvantage. The decision has since been reversed much to the chagrin of farmers.

Cheruget said member states enjoyed exceptional safeguards on commodities like sugar after member countries requested the council of ministers to place restrictions on exports of the commodity.

He said countries like South Africa, which export goods like vegetables to chain stores in COMESA states, are doing so through existing agreements under the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

However, COMESA’s arguments did little to appease Zambian farmers. President of the Small-scale Farmers Union Frank Kayula said crop diversification was dealt a heavy blow by allowing agricultural imports.

“The small-scale farmer will be relegated to simply growing maize, a practice that has failed to lift millions of farmers out of poverty,” he said.

Commercial farmer Graham Rae said Zambia is exporting thousands of jobs to other countries through the import of agricultural produce it is well-positioned to produce itself.

In a related development, government today convened a stakeholders meeting in Lusaka to address concerns over the continued import of agro produce.

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