AGRICULTURE Minister Michael Katambo is on firm ground by insisting that Government will only allow maize exports when the country is food secure.
According to the minister, government targets to buy one million metric tonnes of maize to ensure Zambians have enough food before allowing exports to neighbouring countries.
While this may sound harsh to farmers and other businesses that intend to export the staple food, Mr Katambo has a point and should be supported by all patriotic Zambians.
The decision should not be misconstrued to mean government has banned farmers from exporting maize but is a temporal measure to allow the country buy adequate reserves what with the unpredictable rainfall pattern.
It would, therefore, be folly for Government to allow most of the maize to be exported only to come and source for maize from other countries in the event of a drought or worse still floods because of the effects of climate change.
In fact, the country is still recovering from effects of floods which last season not only destroyed crops but displaced millions of people in some provinces where people were forced to rely on Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) handouts.
The nation should learn a lesson from what happened and to avoid a repeat by securing enough maize in its strategic reserves to enable the nation weather the storms.
It’s only proper that government’s decision is supported.
We urge farmers and other citizens involved in exporting maize not to consider government’s stance as a ban but a wise strategic measure aimed at protecting Zambians from hunger especially that nobody can predict what the future holds.
Yes, while farmers have to reap from their sweat, the situation demands that they carefully weigh the options as patriotic citizens – export most of the maize and remain food insecure or stock up adequately and avoid hunger before thinking of export markets.
Government, as Mr Katambo indicated, will after meeting its maize target, still allow 210,000 metric tonnes to be exported which was in line with the crop focus.
This only goes to show that there is no ban.
But it will be impossible for government to meet its target of making the country food secure if farmers continue shunning selling their maize to the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) because of the lower price.
As things stand, some farmers had even resorted to selling their maize to briefcase buyers and other private sector players.
Even worse some have resorted to smuggling to neighbouring countries such as Malawi and Congo DRC where they were being offered a lucrative price.
While Government can’t force farmers to sell their crops to FRA in a liberalised market such as ours, there is need for the State to come up with incentives that would compel farmers to sell most of their crops to FRA to make Zambia food secure.
Right now there are many buyers on the maize market offering slightly higher prices than what Government was offering, this must be looked into as it is making it impossible for FRA to buy as much maize as possible.
It’s definitely a dicey situation but we implore Government to urgently find a solution to this problem before most of the maize lands in the hands of the private sector players, worse still foreigners.
Unless something is done, it will be difficult to curb maize smuggling which in some cases has seen those involved shot at by local security wings. This is not as it should be.
All in all, Government’s decision not to allow maize exports until the nation is food secure is deserves commendation.