THE move by the Malawian Government to ban importation of cotton from Zambia has led to less usage of the Chipata-Mchinji rail line.
This came to light when a team of Zambian journalists led by Malawian High Commissioner to Zambia Davide Banda toured the rail line last week during commemoration of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Day.
Central and East African Rail (CEAR) civil engineer Paul Madula said the project had recorded less activities on the Malawian side from the time the Malawian Government last year banned the importation of cotton from Zambia.
The Malawian banned importation of cotton to boost production locally.
He said the railway terminus in Mchinji District in Malawi used to be busy when the country was importing cotton from Zambia.
"From the time the government banned the importation of cotton from Zambia, there have been less activities on the project on the Malawian side.
"The banning of the importation of cotton was done in order to boost the production of the commodity among the locals," Mr Madula told the Zambian delegation which also included officials from Zambia Railways Limited.
Mr Madula said he did not know when the ban would be lifted by the Malawian Government.
CEAR is a private railway line concessioned by the Malawian Government to operate the rail line in that country up to Beira Port in Mozambique.
Eastern Province Permanent Secretary Hlobotha Nkunika said the Zambian Government was in the process of signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with CEAR to also manage the 24-kilometre stretch on the Zambian side.
CEAR has already signed a three-year contract with Lafarge Malawi to transport clinker from Lafarge Cement in Chilanga over a period of three years.
Clinker is an ingredient used in the manufacturing of cement.
Mr Madula said the rail line, which has a total of 360 wagons, is expected to transport a total 5,600 tonnes of clinker per month when the project was fully operational.
Currently, the Chipata -Mchinji rail line is not in operation due to lack of a dry port on the Zambian side in Chipata.
Zambia Railways Limited acting Managing Director Regina Mwale said lack of funds had delayed construction of a dry port on the Zambian side.
Chipata-Mchinji railway line project engineer Ernest Silwamba said the Zambian Government had engaged a Chinese firm to do the feasibility study on the construction of the dry port.
He said the study had been completed and what was remaining was the designing of the storage facility.