It was a foolish, selfish decision to lift ban on maize exports – Ngoma

By Staff Reporter

UPND agriculture chairman, Levy Ngoma says it was a foolish and selfish decision to lift the ban on maize exports by the Patriotic Front government when the country is expecting poor yields this year.

On March 3 this year, agriculture minister Michael Katambo announced the removal of a government export ban on mealie meal “to ensure a smooth flow of mealie meal exports.”

Katambo disclosed that Zambia currently had over 700, 000 metric tonnes of maize and that it was convinced of national food security.

“The government has, with immediate effect, lifted the ban on mealie meal exports,” Katambo disclosed.

“It should be noted that the millers who have accessed the government subsidised maize from the FRA (Food Reserve Agency) will not be allowed to get import permits for mealie meal.”

The minister revealed also that mealie meal prices in the country would remain stable.

He urged farmers, millers and grain traders to take advantage of “this market window” and close deals with importers in close border markets, particularly those from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

President Edgar Lungu then ‘calmed nerves’ among apprehensive stakeholders when he assured of national food security, despite the removal of an export ban on mealie meal, at one of his Saturday morning jogs at State Lodge in Lusaka.

On April 4 this year, Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) executive member Peter Cottan attributed current high mealie meal prices in some parts of the country to drought and not the government’s lifting of the ban on mealie meal exports.

A 25 kilogramme bag of mealie meal is fetching between K95 and K110 and the trend is similar in major towns.

He, however, explained that mealie prices would reduce once the new harvest of maize got onto the market.

Cottan made the remarks in a brief interview on Hot FM radio’s RedHot Breakfast Show.

On Friday, President Lungu, in Chisamba, directed the Ministry of Agriculture to suspend maize and mealie meal exports so that it could take stock of what the country had in the reserves and elsewhere.

The President, who was officially opening the sixth Agric tech expo, directed the Ministry of Agriculture to take stock of the available maize, assess what the country needed, the surplus and how much could be sold.

Reacting to the development, Ngoma stated that there
was nothing to thank the PF government for, for reversing their earlier decision to export maize.

“As our visionary party president Hakainde Hichilema advised them, in the first place, allowing maize exports was one of the typically PF ways of ill-advised decisions that any coherent and coordinated government should not even have done,” Ngoma stated in a prèss statement.

“The decision by the PF regime to allow maize exports, amidst looming hunger situation in the country due to poor yield, was completely uncalled-for. Actually, we believe it was one of those selfish decisions where they wanted to make quick money for their individual pockets through corruption. We know they won’t thank Mr Hichilema for the visionary advice against exporting maize because of their usual arrogance and pride.”

He stated that UPND consistently offered alternative economic policy guidelines to the nation but that PF government rejected such advice.

“We shall continue offering the nation what we believe are the best policies and if the visionless PF leadership wants, we can give them a complete economic blueprint to salvage this sinking PF titanic regime,” he stated.

And Ngoma, a former Sinda member of parliament, stated that in the meantime, the government must immediately pay farmers for last season’s crop supplies to the Food Reserve Agency (FRA).

“We are actually disturbed with reports that PF are re-selling maize to the starving villagers at more than K110 per 50 kg bag when they bought it at K60 per 50 kg bag and yet the farmers have not been paid for their supplies,” stated Ngoma.

“The only places where maize and mealie meal is being dished out freely is in the by-election areas as an inducement for votes. Perhaps it’s high time there was an election the whole country so that our starving citizens can access free mealie meal, cooking oil, meat and other food stuffs from the PF party which now has more money than the government treasury!”