By BENNIE MUNDANDO
ZAMBIA has produced over 135, 000 metric tonnes of early maize whose harvest starts in the next 10 days while more tonnage is still coming, the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) has said.
Speaking to the Daily Nation yesterday, ZNFU president Jervis Zimba said farmers who ventured in early maize production which was initially marred with controversy had done a fantastic job as they had exceeded expectations.
Mr. Zimba said he was happy that the union had been vindicated over its insistence that early maize production was the only surest way the country would be food secure.
He said the initiative had averted a possible importation of maize by Government to cushion the deficit before the rain-fed crop would be ready. He said without early maize, the country would have spent huge sums of money in importing the commodity.
“President Edgar Lungu asked us to produce early maize and we wholeheartedly accepted the challenge despite the differences we had with the Ministry of Agriculture. Our famers did a fantastic job despite challenges such as load shedding which hit the crop.
“I am happy to announce to the public that we will start harvesting this maize in the next 10 days if rains don’t disturb us. We have produced over 135, 000 metric tonnes of early maize and more figures are coming. We could hit 200,000 metric tonnes,” Mr. Zimba said.
He said the delay in offloading the commodity on the market once harvested would be triggered by the Ministry of Agriculture if it does not sign contracts on time.
“We have delivered. How quickly this commodity will be on the market will determined by the ministry’s efficiency but we don’t expect to again start following each other over a straight-forward issue.
“We spent more time bickering at the start of this project and that affected our productivity as some farmers did not want to take the risk. The good part is that those who took the risk have produced beyond expectations but we must learn lessons,” he said.
He paid glowing tribute to President Lungu for believing in the farmers and that the development will ensure enhanced foreign exchange earnings as most countries in the region will look to Zambia for the commodity as did the DRC.
He also said there was need for Zambia to move from more reliance on rain-fed crops but embrace irrigation agriculture.