Zambia has recorded a 69 percent increase in maize production during the 2019/2020 agricultural season from the 2,004,389 metric tonnes (MT) that were produced in the last season.
The country is projected to harvest 3,387,469 metric tonnes of maize this year and has a carry-over of the staple amounting to 179,247 mt, translating into the total supply available for the 2020/2021 marketing season to 3,566,716 tonnes.
Minister of Agriculture Michael Katambo announced in Lusaka today that the total maize required for Zambia’s estimated 17 million people is 3,356,617 metric tonnes, out of which, over 1.6 million mt is for human consumption while one million tonnes is for strategic reserves.
Mr. Katambo said over 409,000 metric tonnes is for industrial requirements and 210,000 metric tonnes will be the surplus.
“What this now implies, is that the country is food secure and will remain as such for the next year to come, provided smuggling is controlled,” he said.
The Minister has since thanked small and medium scale farmers who are expected to contribute 93 percent, which translates into 3,16,185 metric tonnes of the total maize production this year.
The large scale farmers are expected to produce 227,284 metric tonnes of maize, which translates into seven percent of the total 2019/2020 agricultural season production.
He attributed the increase in maize production to the favourable weather, early delivery of farming inputs under the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) and farmers’ renewed confidence in growing maize.
“Although the national average yield rate for maize has increased to 2.07 metric tonnes per hectare from 1.29 metric tonnes per hectare last season, the yield per hectare is still very low, and we can do better as a country,” he said.
Mr. Katambo said his ministry’s major focus is therefore to enhance productivity particularly for small scale farmers to a minimum of four metric tonnes per hectare.
“This will be done through promotion of good agricultural practices, which includes conservation agriculture, use of appropriate quality and certified seed, irrigation and mechanization,” he explained.
He hoped that once the yield per hectare increases, small scale farmers will automatically make maize production profitable.
Meanwhile, Mr. Katambo has disclosed that his ministry is currently facilitating the export of 83,000 mt of early maize which he said although expensive, it was not required on the local market.
“The Ministry of Agriculture will also allow humanitarian related exports under the World Food Programme.
What is important to note is that the early maize and humanitarian related exports will have no bearing on national food security, now that we have established the actual food situation through the crop forecast survey,” he said.
And Mr. Katambo announced that the production of rice is also forecast to increase by 17 percent to 34,630 metric tonnes from 29,584 m last season.
“Despite the growth in rice production over time, local production is still unable to meet our local demand. Currently, the deficit in rice production stands at approximately 45,000 metric tonnes which is met through imports,” he said.
The minister said the Ministry of Agriculture has therefore developed the rice development strategy to promote production of rice among farmers.
Other crops such as sweet and Irish potatoes, cassava, wheat, sorghum, and sunflower are also forecast to increase this year.
However, the production of cotton seed and groundnuts is expected to reduce.