By Shapi Shacinda
LUSAKA, Dec 14 (Reuters) – Zambia will export 150,000 tonnes of white maize to a neighbouring country, agriculture and co-operatives minister Ben Kapita said on Friday.
Kapita, who declined to name the country where maize would be exported, said the planned export by the state-run Food Reserve Agency (FRA) would bring the total national exports this year to 450,000 tonnes.
“I have clinched a very good deal and I have allowed the FRA to export another 150,000 tonnes of maize to a country within the Southern African Development Community,” Kapita told Reuters in an interview.
He said the FRA finalised the export deal this week.
Kapita said total maize exports by the FRA this year would be 300,000 tonnes. Further exports by farmers, millers and grain traders of 50,000 tonnes each would push the total to 450,000 tonnes, he said.
Kapita said Zambia would only keep 250,000 tonnes white maize in strategic reserves.
He said the fresh maize exports had been prompted by lack of storage capacity and also to enable the FRA to repay bank loans it received to purchase maize from farmers, transporters and rented storage facilities.
Kapita also said most of the grain silos had been destroyed following years of neglect and the country did not therefore have enough storage facilities.
“Instead of letting the maize go to waste due to heavy rains, I decided it is better to export it. I also want the FRA to repay the loans, including the 35 billion (Zambian) kwacha ($9.2 million), which I gave them recently to pay some of the farmers,” Kapita said.
Kapita said Zambia had also donated 10,000 tonnes white maize to the World Food Programme (WFP) for relief operations in the southern Africa region.
“We have given the WFP 10,000 tonnes maize for relief operations and that does not include 2,000 tonnes which we donated directly to Swaziland,” he added.
The minister said Zambia was currently negotiating with the Chinese to repair dilapidated grain silos as the country started to increase its maize production capacity.
“Right now a team from the FRA is in China to negotiate the repair of silos. We want to build our capacity as most the silos have not been repaired since the 1980s,” Kapita said, but he gave no further details.
Kapita told Reuters in June that the southern African country of 11.5 million people planned to raise maize output to 4.2 million tonnes within the next three years from 1.3 million tonnes in 2007.
Zambia has revamped its agriculture sector under plans to diversify the economy and has become a net maize exporter after facing severe maize deficits in the early 2000s.
The country has in the last few years been providing subsidised pesticides and seed to small scale farmers in a bid to encourage them to grow more maize. (Reporting by Shapi Shacinda, Editing by Peter Blackburn)
Source: The Guardian