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Maize uncompetitive, yet farming conditions favourable

Zambia has been unable to take advantage of favourable climate and soil conditions to compete with regional maize producers, according to a preliminary report by the Zambia National Farmers Union.

“Zambia is a high cost area for maize production,” an agricultural expert told IRIN on Wednesday. “When comparing costs there is a wide difference which makes us uncompetitive in terms of exports, and sometimes even when we import maize.”

According to the specialist, in terms of efficiency, Zambian farmers are equal to their neighbours. But fertilizer and transport costs, customs duties and bank interest rates have succeeded in driving up the production costs per tonne of Zambian maize to US $211 compared to US $81 for farmers in Zimbabwe. “When you compare with other countries you find that the Zambian farmer is disadvantaged,” he said.

The high production costs are reflected in the market price of the staple. It also impacts on the livestock industry where maize is used as the principal feed.

The government is changing its troubled agricultural policy to focus on development programmes for small- scale farmers, including the provision of fertilizer at concessional prices. It is also experimenting with the privatisation of extension services in selected areas of the country.

“But the new policy proposed doesn’t address the issues,” the specialist said. Among other measures, he called for the government to remove import duties on all agricultural inputs, introduce credit schemes for farmers and improve research into seed varieties. “We need a package of special programmes to address the relevant issues,” he added.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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