The Kingdom of Swaziland wants to import maize and other grain from Zambia, says the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA). However, economists and agriculture stakeholders think it is unlikely, given that it will be cheaper for Swaziland to import maize from South Africa.
According to ZDA, Swaziland’s interest in Zambian grain followed an exhibition by locals at the country’s international trade fair, where President Edgar Lungu officiated.
“King Mswati III expressed interest to import maize, rice, groundnuts and beans from Zambia during the trade fair,” ZDA said in a statement released in Lusaka.
But economists say exporting maize to Swaziland will be costly.
“It is not easy to export maize to our neighbouring nations whose borders are less than an hour from Zambia,” said a Lusaka-based economist who did not want to be named.
The sentiment is widely shared by players in the grain market who say it is difficult to export maize due to logistical and cost challenges.
Zambia has a maize harvest of 3.6 million tons, enough for national consumption and export. By contrast, neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as well as East African countries like Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania are facing a huge grain deficit.
However, exports to those markets facing a deficit is slowed by logistical challenges. Zambian maize is also less competitive because of the recent strong appreciation of the kwacha against the US dollar.
The low grain market is not faring any better because of low demand and low prices. Prices range between K40–K60/50kg, a drop of more than 50% from last year. Soya bean prices have also dropped by as much as 65%.
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