Pretoria – 27th August, 2015 – GOVERNMENT says it is putting in place policies and strategies that will ensure that State pronouncements cease being rhetorical but translate into real action that will support the agricultural sector.
Deputy Minister for Agriculture and Livestock, Mr. Greyford Monde said this at the symposium and launch of Agri All Africa, a consortium of South African farmers that has been created to champion the development of commercial agriculture in Africa as the key driver of the continent’s economic development.
Mr. Monde also told the audience that President Edgar Lungu’s strong desire was to see the private sector play a central role in the entire value chain of the agricultural sector. He said the private sector should participate in agriculture so that it could help offset the challenges that government was facing.
The Deputy Minister said the absence of adequate private sector participation in agriculture has forced government to spend over and above the budgetary allocation during crop marketing seasons, a situation which has derailed other equally important national programmes.
“Farmers have families and when they work, they expect to sell their produce so that they can feed their families. And as a responsible government, when we see that there is no one buying their crop, we are forced to intervene,” Mr. Monde said.
On assertions that most African governments were supporting cheap agricultural imports at the expense of their local industry, Mr. Monde said this was mere perception which resulted from lack of “a responsible private sector.”
“There have been a number of irresponsible activities, such as collusion, perpetrated by some private sector players, which we see as working against our people. When we see such activity, we are forced as government to take certain steps in order to protect our citizens,” Mr. Monde said.
He said the Government has made it top priority to woo investors into the country and has been working on measures that have since shown positive returns.
Mr. Monde regretted that Zambia was just known for maize cultivation when the country had several other opportunities in the agricultural sector.
“We have fertile soils, over 40 per cent of water resources in the region, and good supporting policies yet we are only known for maize. This is why President Lungu has gone on a crusade to promote fish farming. There is a huge deficit in that area which the private sector can embrace as an opportunity. Zambia can be among the top four producers of maize, rice, livestock and other commodities.”
And a prominent farmer for KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, Mr. Charl Senekal, who was one of the panelists, said he was looking to make “serious investments in Zambia because the climate was favourable. “There is no safer country for my investment than Zambia and Ethiopia on this continent.”
Mr. Senekal has identified some portions of land around Zambia on which he intends to start sugar cane growing.
Zambia was continually cited by several speakers during the symposium as an example where the Government was working to ensure that a conducive environment for agriculture was created.
Other speakers called on African governments to make the continent more investor friendly. Mr. Omri van Zyl, chief executive officer for Agri SA, said African countries needed to re-package their ‘stories’ so that they become attractive to foreign investors.
Former vice-president of the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions, Mr. Salum Shamte agreed with this point adding that Africa should be proactive and explore new markets.
Ms. Cecilia Khupe, African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership Director of Projects in Africa, appealed to Mr. Monde to pass on the message to the African Union that Africa needed a more conducive environment for agriculture. She cited the signing of the Free Trade Area treaty by some countries as one such agreement that has not resulted in any tangible results to date.
Israeli ambassador to South Africa, Mr. Arthur Lenk called for more such events as they would help in closing gaps between the private sector and governments.
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