Zambian farmers have slammed government’s decision to backtrack on the ban on the importation of agricultural products. “This move will discourage farmers and frustrate the crop diversification which could have been triggered had government stuck to the ban,” said Jervis Zimba, National Farmers Union (ZNFU) president.
Government on Monday announced that it had reversed the ban on the importation of vegetable and fruit citing the need to adhere to the trade protocols of the Common Market for Central and Southern Africa (COMESA). According to Kayula Siame, commerce, trade and industry permanent secretary, Zambia could only effect such a ban after consultation with stakeholders and implementation of a statutory instrument (SI).
But Zimba wondered why Zambia was bound by the COMESA trade protocols when other members he did not name were ignoring them. “Government is losing us$42 million annually on importation of vegetables while adhering to the COMESA protocols that other members seemed to ignore,” he charged.
Zimba reiterated that local farmers had the capacity to meet the demand of the local and international market.
“Apart from very few types of fruits like apples, pears and grapes, the Zambian climate was conducive to the production of whole range of others and vegetable,” he said.
Evans Ngoma, BUyZed Campaign managing director backed ZNFU’s position describing the climb down by government as unacceptable. “We are very disappointed with the government’s decision. This is unacceptable,” he said.
Denise Mwelwa, a Lusaka vegetable farmer also described the move as retrogressive. “This is a slap on the face of Zambian growers who have been fighting for decades to access attractive markets,” she said.
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