By BENNIE MUNDANDO
OUR farmers are capable of producing enough to meet the 600, 000 metric tonnes maize exports to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) despite challenges we faced during the early phase of early maize planting, the Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) has said.
In October last year, Zambia signed an agreement with the DRC that will see the country export about 600, 000 metric tonnes of maize and mealie meal this year.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at commercialising maize exports to the DRC was signed to ensure that a well-structured regime was put in place to promote trade and exports will commence after harvests.
Government and farmers then entered into an agreement for the production of early maize to cushion food security and for exports
However, by November last year, farmers lamented the wilting of their crops at germination phase which was under irrigation due to prolonged hours of electricity load shedding.
The farmers said the decision by Zesco to load- shed them for 18 to 21 hours showed that there were misplaced priorities in determining who should be load shed as some residential areas were not affected.
But speaking to the Daily Nation yesterday, ZNFU Media and Public Relations Manager Calvin Kaleyi said notwithstanding the challenges at the beginning of the early maize planting phace, Zambian farmers were equal to the task to produce enough maize to not only satisfy the local market, but also export to the DRC.
Mr. Kaleyi said the fact that the 600, 000 metric tonnes of maize to be exported to Congo will not be needed at the same time but staggered over a period of time meant that Zambia was capable of meeting the target.
“We had a bit of challenges with the irrigated crops due to prolonged hours of load shedding during the germination phase. After that, there was a resumption of some supply which steadied a bit and there is some production that happened due in the year. We have the capacity to supply.
“The 600, 000 metric tonnes is not a quantity that is not needed at one goal. It is a quantity that is staggered over a period of time but we are optimistic that this will be met especially if we are going to have a much improved agricultural season for 2019/2020. This is attainable despite these challenges,” Mr. Kaleyi said.