The Zambian government issued a temporary waiver on its moratorium on maize exports to allow local producers to export 10 000 tons of grain to Zimbabwe.
The country is reported to be in dire need. Using that decision, grain traders are now asking for the ban to be completely lifted.
Agriculture minister Dora Siliya, who this week announced the decision in response to an urgent request by the Zimbabwean government, insisted the ban was still in force.
“Zambia is not an island. When your neighbour’s house is burning, you have to assist because you, too, will need help when yours burns. This does not mean that the maize export ban has been lifted,” Siliya said.
She said under the temporary waiver, government was merely enabling the Zimbabwean government to access maize it had earlier bought from farmers. Because of the ban, that deal could not be concluded.
“When your neighbour’s house is burning, you have to assist because you, too, will need help when yours burns.
Siliya said the waiver is in place under the same conditions which allowed the export of 100 000 tons of maize to Malawi under the auspices of the Zambia Federation Co-operative (ZCF). That transaction was shrouded in controversy – in Malawi and Zambia.
“Neither government nor its agency the Food Reserve Agency is involved in this. This is between the Zimbabwe government and farmers across the nation. Our role as government is to facilitate the export under the existing moratorium,” Siliya said.
Grain traders who spoke to africanfarming.com on condition of anonymity, said the deals with Malawi and Zimbabwe proved the moratorium was doing more harm than good.
“Tomorrow we will have another urgent request from another neighbouring country, and the day after.
This shows there is need to lift the ban all together. Selective deals of such a nature would just fan controversy,” one source said.
Another said there was intense pressure on government to push through similar exports to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the demand for grain is also high.
The source said rampant smuggling on the northern and north-western borders with the DRC can be stopped, if the moratorium is lifted.