THE Zambian government on Tuesday bowed to pressure and suspended the importation of onions and potatoes following an outcry from farmers.
Green Mbozi, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, said the government has decided to suspend the importation of onions and potatoes until further notice following a meeting held with the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU).
He told journalists that the desire of the government was to ensure that the interest of local farmers is protected.
On Monday, Jervis Zimba, president of the farmers’ association, raised concerns over the flooding of imported onions and potatoes on the market, saying the trend was killing local farmers.
He questioned the rationale behind the import of the two commodities that can be produced locally and are currently in abundance.
According to him, onions and potatoes produced by local farmers risk going to waste unless the government addresses the continued import of the commodities.
Experts have raised concerns over the government’s decision to allow the import of some commodities that could be grown locally and are demanding a clear policy decision.
Emmanuel Mwamba, Zambia’s former ambassador to Ethiopia and the AU, said the situation has been worsened by the lack of value addition in the country.
‘Because we are seasonal farmers and not all-year-round farmers, in the season of plenty, we advocate for a ban on importation of onions, tomatoes and potatoes, and as soon as the season is over, a shortage and price hike kick in and again lift the importation ban,’ he said on his Facebook page.
In February last year, the government banned the import of onions and tomatoes but the ban was lifted in April the same year.
Frank Kayula, a former director-general of the National Union for Small-Scale Farmers in Zambia, recently urged the government to find a way of balancing imports and the need to boost local production.