The soaring demand for Zambian agricultural produce by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is revitalising the struggling state-owned railway company, Zambia Railways Limited (ZRL).
“We have a target of moving more than 20 000 tons of agricultural produce to the DRC in the next few months,” said Chris Musonda, ZRL Executive Officer.
Musonda said the expected bumper harvest of 3.6 million tons is an opportunity for farmers to export raw and value added maize products to the DRC.
So far plans are advanced to set up free trade zones at border points to facilitate orderly exports to the DRC. There is rampant smuggling which is attributed to restricted flow exports between Zambia and the DRC.
The DRC’s annual maize imports from Zambia is pegged at more than 400 000 tons. The current export price for maize is US$385 per ton.
Zambia recently exported raw maize and maize meal to the DRC, Angola, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
Musonda said the exports saw a rise in the tonnage carried by ZRL at an average of three trains per week destined for the neighbouring country.
According to transport experts, increased tonnage by the railway company will help rejuvenate the declining fortune of Zambia’s Railway system and reduce the high cost of maintaining roads.