Farmers call for PS Siame to resign

Fri, 31 Mar 2017 12:17:21 +0000




COMMERCE, Trade and Industry permanent secretary Kayula Siame is a threat to Government’s diversification drive and should immediately resign before she plunges the agriculture sector into more problems, the Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) has charged.

Early this month, Ministry of Agriculture permanent secretary Julius Shawa announced Government’s ban on the importation of some fruits and vegetables to promote local production and growth of the market for local farmers.

Mr. Shawa said the country had capacity to produce and constantly supply fruits and vegetables to satisfy local demand and named the banned agricultural produce as tomatoes, onions, carrots, mangoes, potatoes, pineapples, lemons and watermelons.

But last week, Ms. Siame announced the reversal of the ban, saying Zambia was a signatory to binding trade protocols in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and that a ban should have been accompanied by a Statutory Instrument (SI).

However, this has not been received well by farmers, with the ZNFU demanding that Ms. Siame immediately resigns on moral grounds because she was “a square peg in a round hole”. The organization claimed Ms Siame did not know what she was talking about, adding that her continued stay in the Ministry of Commerce was ‘‘a disaster in waiting’’ for the agriculture sector.

ZNFU president Jervis Zimba told the Daily Nation yesterday that the agriculture sector was ‘‘not up for trial and error antics’’ as it was one of the pillars on which the economy hinged and that it would be ridiculous for the country to continue spending US$42 million per annum on exports for goods which could be produced locally.

“Where was Ms. Siame when the country banned the export of maize for her to talk about the SI now? Right now Zimbabwe has banned the export of soya cake and maize, isn’t Zimbabwe a member of SADC and bound by the same SADC protocols that she is talking about? Who told her that local farmers cannot produce to meet the demand for vegetables for the local market?

“Stakeholders in the agriculture sector had a series of engagements and they made a number of recommendations on how we can improve the sector by helping small scale farmers to grow and that is how the ban was arrived at but Ms. Siame just wakes up succumbs to those who have been pushing for the consumption of products produced in their countries to find market in Zambia yet our farmers are suffering,” Mr. Zimba said. He noted that Zambia should forget about diversifying the agriculture sector if officials entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding and improving local players’ production capacities were ignorant of the effects of their actions.

“Do you think the President does not know what he is doing when he calls for diversification of the sector? Who is then boss between the President and the PS? Does she think she understands agriculture better than the technocrats in the field?

‘‘Honestly speaking, should our farmers continue growing maize year in and year out because there is no demand for other products? We know there are disgruntled chain stores which want products from their countries of origin to find market in Zambia and they are using this same lame excuse that Zambian farmers cannot afford to meet the market demand, who told them?’’

He said as a result of Zambia’s high propensity to consuming foreign products, local farmers will have no market for most of their produce this coming marketing season.


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