Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu has directed his ministers of agriculture and commerce to come up with measures to regulate agricultural imports, including fruit and vegetables that are locally produced.
He said such regulations will make local producers more profitable and motivate them to increase production.
“Farming will only make sense if it is profitable. I’m therefore directing ministers at agriculture and commerce to regulate the import of vegetables, fruit and other agro produce that are farmed locally,” Lungu said at the 112th annual congress of the Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU).
ZNFU President Jervis Zimba, who retained his position, welcomed Lungu’s directive, stressing that it is unacceptable for Zambia to spend US$43 million annually on importing agricultural products when local farmers can produce most of it.
“Our local producers have been subjected to unfair competition from an influx of cheap imported agro products. And there is no justification for the huge amounts of foreign exchange we spend to import the same products readily available on our local market,” he said.
EDIBLE OILS STILL IMPORTED
Earlier in the year, government imposed a short-lived ban of agricultural imports. It was lifted because it was in conflict with prohibitive trade protocols of the Common Market for Central and Southern Africa (COMESA).
ZNFU and other stakeholders slammed the reversal and said the protocols were lopsided and counterproductive to Zambia’s crop diversification. Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Dora Siliya said the import of edible oils continues.
“We have allowed edible oils to come in because there is no capacity by local producers despite soya bean being abundant,” she said. However, edible oil producers argue that it is not so much a question of capacity but of competitiveness, as a 16% value added tax (VAT) is imposed on them.
According to Dharmesh Patel, executive of an edible oil manufacturing company, Zambia is the only country in the region charging VAT on edible oil.
Edible oils are an important part of food expenditure in Zambian households. The majority of oilseed growers are small-scale farmers with a poor resource base who are also prone to price shocks.