PRETORIA – Wednesday, 13th August, 2014 – GOVERNMENT has said it will maintain the policy on allowing local farmers to export their agricultural produce, Agriculture and Livestock Minister, Mr. Wylbur Simuusa has assured. The Minister made the announcement during a panel discussion at the Second Agri-Business Summit in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
Mr. Simuusa emphasised the point when he later spoke in separate interviews with SA FM and CNBC Africa on the sidelines of the Summit.
He said government has made a decision to keep the borders open for all those who wanted to export their crop “and we will keep it that way. We responded to calls from our farmers such as the ZNFU and we want to operate an open border policy.”
The Minister was speaking on the theme: “Agribusiness Trade Opportunities in Africa”. Other speakers at the two-day summit were Mr. Antois van der Westhuizen from Nedbank Limited, and Director for Commodity Derivatives at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, Mr. Chris Sturgess.
Mr. Sturgess commended the Zambian government for allowing exports saying this gave confidence to the private sector who would be assured that they would have a ready market when they decide to invest in Zambia.
“When you open the borders like that, you allow productivity to flourish. And if you start building on such things, you find that private-public-partnership starts to work,” Mr. Sturgess said.
Meanwhile, the Minister has invited South African investors to come to Zambia and look at putting up a pineapple processing plant. “When I visited pineapple growers in Zambia, they told me the area had great potential for pineapple growing and that the market was readily available. And from our assessment, that is correct. If any of you feels they want to invest in a pineapple factory, please come through, you are welcome.”
Mr. Simuusa said Zambia also had various other types of citrus fruit, such as mangoes, to which more value could be added by processing them into other products.
And a group of agricultural experts in South Africa has opposed giving subsidies to farmers saying the practice was unsustainable.
The experts were responding to Mr. Simuusa who solicited for comments and views from the panelists on what they thought about agricultural subsidies.
In his contribution, Mr. Simuusa had pointed out that small scale farmers could not be ignored as has been proven in Zambia where 93 percent of this year’s crop harvest was from that category. He had further noted that Zambia was also trying to ensure food security and that was the reason Government was giving out seed and fertilizer packs to a selected number of farmers. The Minister asked for the opinions of the panelists.
Director General in the South African department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Professor Edith Vries, equated provision of subsidies to farmers as “bending too much” on the part of government. She said the practice was there in South Africa before 1994 but has now been abolished.
Mr. Sturgess noted that in as much as it was unfair for farmers in Africa to compete with their counterparts in the United States who received subsidies from their government, the practice was slowly being phased out in that region because it was not sustainable.
“Whatever business you put up, it has to be sustainable. The problem with subsidies is that they may not be sustainable.”
Senior Agricultural Economist at Land Bank, Ms. Keneilwe Nailana said the best form of subsidies that her institution has thought of was small-interest loans which it has been giving out to farmers.
But Director at Just Veggies, Dick Muir, said it did not make sense to simply provide seed to the farmer but leave out the other implements that should also be provided. “You have to see them through. So subsidy is a good thing,” Mr. Muir said.
And Mr. Simuusa has called for stronger regional integration if individual countries were to see progress in the agricultural sector. He pointed out that Zambia and South Africa had unique advantages which could result in remarkable benefits if the two countries forge closer collaboration.
“Zambia and South Africa have close historical ties and if only we can make this marriage between the two work, we can make an impact that will surprise the world. If we can take advantage of the opportunities that lie in the two countries- Zambia with its huge market and offering a good investment climate, and then South Africa with its huge financial and human capital, we can be a huge force to reckon with,” Mr. Simuusa said.
He said over 80 per cent of the population in Zambia depended on rain-fed agriculture adding that this indicated potential for investment in irrigation. Zambia has investment potential in fish farming, commercialisation of agricultural land, fertilizer and seed production, and grain storage facilities.
Mr. Simuusa assured the audience that there were no issues of land conflict in Zambia and pointed out that government was reforming the land policy to strengthen it so that it was in tune with the current demands.
He said women were now able to obtain land and have it on title unlike before when they could only do so through their husbands. The Minister encouraged those interested in investing in Zambia to go through the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry who will assist them to get land in the 10 farm blocks that have been established in the 10 provinces of the country.
And in summing-up Mr. Simuusa’s presentation, Zambia’s Deputy High Commissioner to South Africa, Mr. Joe Kaunda, noted that Zambia ranked among the 10 fastest growing economies in the world and urged all those looking for a suitable investment destination to look to Zambia.
“Zambia’s development rate today ranks among the top 10 in the world. We are a peaceful nation that has managed to peacefully and democratically change governments over 50 years. We can assure you that your investment is safe in Zambia as we remain one of the most stable countries in the world and one of the places where you get a decent return on your investment. The ball is in your court,” Mr. Kaunda said.
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