By Alexander Nkosi
In Zambia, about 42 million hectares is classified as medium-to high-potential land for agriculture production, three times bigger than Malawi’s agriculture land.
In 2020, Malawi’s top exports included: Raw Tobacco- USD 584 million, Tea- USD83.4 million, Raw Sugar- USD75.2 million, Dried Legumes- USD46 million, and Other Nuts- USD33 million. In the same period Zambia’s top agriculture export were: Tobacco and manufactured tobacco substitutes- USD116 million and Sugars and sugar confectionery- 115 million.
Sub-Saharan Africa spends about USD50 billion importing food and this is projected to rise to USD90 billion by 2030. Nigeria alone spends about USD5 billion and Angola, Congo DR and Somalia spend a combined USD5 billion. Angola spends about USD 400 million every year importing chicken from Brazil.
These figures demonstrate that:
¤ Zambia is underutilising its agriculture potential where even Malawi with less land and financial resources is exporting more. In most years, Malawi actually produces more maize than Zambia despite importing maize from Zambia to meet its domestic needs.
¤ There is high demand for food in the region and in Africa at large. Zambia can capitalise on the huge regional and continental markets.
¤ Africa imports a lot of food despite having water and fertile land to grow food.
Why does Zambia struggle to capitalise on this huge market? Why does Angola choose to import from Brazil and not Zambia?
We need to produce and process good quality products at low cost. The cost of production is too high and most of our farmers and processors don’t have access technology required for high quality food processing. We need to invest in finding ways of lowering the cost of production. To achieve this, I’m recommending the following:
1) In the short term, we need to clean up the inputs procurement system and source inputs from firms that can supply at low cost.
2) As we engage in bilateral and multilateral discussions, one of the key issues should be investing in agriculture. As we engage the World Bank group, European Investment Fund, African Development Bank- our focus should be seeking support in lowering the cost of production and accessing better food processing equipment and technologies.
3) As we target to attract local and foreign investers, one of the key areas of focus should be investing in local production of inputs. Huge economic incentives should be given to all firms engaged in local production of inputs.
4) The ministry of Science and Technology, working with tertiary institutions should invest heavily in research aimed aimed at producing low cost inputs.
5) ZNS has potential to produce inputs at low cost as government pays for labour, fuel, electricity, water, physical structures etc. Once ZNS embarks on such projects, its recruitment should strategically target the required technical experts.
6) We need to invest in promoting organic methods of production to expand uptake.