Emotionally charged Zambian farmers demand that government impose stiff taxes on the import of agricultural products which are produced locally. The farmers, joined by other stakeholders, tabled the demand earlier in the week at a consultative meeting convened by government in the wake of its decision to reverse the agro import ban.
Government asked farmers to exercise caution to avoid excluding themselves from regional trade opportunities.
“Government must raise the current 5% import tax to 25% to level the playing field,” said Evans Ngoma, BuyZed managing director.
Farmers agree with BuyZed’s proposal, which states that increasing import tax on vegetables and fruit will encourage the purchasing of local products, especially by chain stores.
“Local farmers have the capacity to expand the production of various fruit, vegetables and meat products to feed the local and export markets but this will only happen if government bans imports of non-seasonal farm produce,” said farmer Graham Rae.
Zambian National Farmers Union (ZNFU) representative and commercial farmer, Frank Kayula, also president of the National Union of Small-Scale Farmers of Zambia (NUSFAZ), called for a gradual ban of selected farm produce so that local producers can increase their supply in the market.
However, Commerce, Trade and Industry Minister Margaret Mwanakatwe, flanked by her agriculture counterpart Dora Siliya, said imposing a ban will invite indignation from member states of the Central and Southern Africa Common Market (COMESA) and exclude Zambia from favourable trade benefits.
“We cannot shut ourselves from other markets. Instead, let’s talk on how to expand our production to meet local and regional demand,” she said. Siliya said her ministry will continue consultations with agricultural stakeholders and come up with policies that favoured growth among local farmers by linking them with markets for their produce.
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