14 February 2013

Zambia: Looming Food Shortages Unsettle Donors

In the wake of a looming poor agriculture season which may lead to serious food crisis, one of Zambia's major donor - Sweden - is speaking out expressing displeasure at the Patriotic Front government's mismanagement of the sector.

Late delivery of farming inputs to farmers by the PF government, failure to tackle the invasion of maize fields by army worms, a poor rainfall pattern has beset the agriculture sector in the 2012/13 farming season.

The situation has raised fears that the country will have a poor yield of the staple food, maize, and this may lead to shortages and high prices of the commodity worsening the situation from last year when Zambia enjoyed a bumper harvest but still endured record mealie meal prices.

It is this mismanagement of the sector which is upsetting the Swedish who expect Zambia, for all its arable land, to aggressively capitalise on agriculture and assure its citizens of food security.

The Swedish Corporative Centre (SCC) has noted that the late delivery of farming inputs, which todate have not reached most farmers across the country, may negatively affect all efforts aimed at reducing poverty.

SCC chief executive officer Anneli Rogeman said the country's agricultural sector has the potential to contribute massively to the economic development if given the necessary attention.

Rogeman made the remarks, which are uncomfortable to the PF government, when inspecting some agricultural activities that are sponsored by Sweden under the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU).

"I am worried about the farmers because the fertilizer came too late from the government. So, most of maize harvest will not do very well," she said.

President Michael Sata, in the hope of pleasing farmers and other stakeholders has removed Emmanuel Chenda, widely accused of mismanaging the agriculture ministry, and replaced him with an economic expert Bob Sichinga who was in charge of commerce. Chenda has gone to the ministry of agriculture in the same capacity.

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