An energy expert says the growing bio-fuel industry, spurred by the removal of subsidies on fuel, presented smallholder cassava and sorghum farmers with a ready market for their crop.
Energy Forum Chairman Johnstone Chikwanda said these farmers now have a realistic chance of up-scaling production.
“There has been huge growth in the bio-fuels industry following the removal of subsidies, and herein lies the opportunity for smallholder farmers,” said Chikwanda.
Cassava and sorghum are among drought-tolerant crops expected to grow as the country diversified from predominant maize production to other cash crops. As a result, the crops are receiving a lot of attention for commercialisation.
Early signs of the huge potential for cassava and sorghum production have seen the multinational brewing company, AB Inbev, through its Zambian subsidiary Zambian Breweries, embark on driving an out-grower scheme. Through the scheme, which is set to increase the use of the crop, the company provided a ready-market for smallholder farmers.
The brewer is also working on an initiative to buy surplus crop from other producers, and invested in multi-million kwacha technology to incorporate the crop into its production process.
Chikwanda said the move by government to disengage from the procurement of finished petroleum products will also accelerate the growth of the bio-fuel industry. This will give farmers viable options for reducing poverty and creating jobs, especially in rural areas.