The Zambian government announced a ban on the import of agricultural produce which include tomatoes, onions, carrots, mangoes and potatoes. Fruit like pineapple, lemons and watermelons are also on the list of prohibited imports.
Local farmers welcomed the move, but multinational chain stores are incensed and are demanding that the ban be lifted.
Last Friday, agriculture permanent secretary Julius Shawa said the ban was necessitated by the need to protect the local market from cheaply imported produce. “We have had numerous complaints from our farmers that the imported produce had a negative impact on their business. Just recently, some tomatoes from neighbouring countries were being imported into Zambia, hence undercutting our farmers,” Shawa said.
Shawa dismissed the protestations by multinational chain stores, saying the country had the capacity to produce and consistently supply fruit and vegetables to satisfy local demand. “They need to demonstrate the inability of local farmers to supply the produce whose importation has been banned,” he said.
“The ban is good and long overdue,” said Frank Kayula, director-general of The National Union for Small-scale Farmers of Zambia. He also said the ban must be strengthened by a statutory instrument which will give up to 30% preference for local produce.
But many chain store operators are sceptical about local farmers’ ability to steadily supply them with fruit and vegetables. “The challenge we have with local producers is erratic supply,” said one operator in a Lusaka mall.