The decision by government to ban maize exports will adversely affect signed contracts while Zambia’s reputation as an exporter is also going to suffer, says former finance minister Dr Situmbeko Musokotwane.
Dr Musokotwane said apart from that, the announcement was confusing because Agriculture Minister Robert Sichinga had recently assured the nation that there was need to export maize because there were sufficient stocks to take care of the people of Zambia.
He said the minister had said in a ministerial statement in Parliament that the maize government was exporting was a carryover from the last two seasons and that the exports were being done to create space for new stocks.
Dr Musokotwane charged that by announcing the ban, the minister was evidently not aware of what was happening in the agriculture sector because he was contradicting himself.
The former finance minister said government should separate the issues of maize exporting from the shortages of mealie meal because the two were completely different.
He said the ban was unrealistic because the businessmen who are into maize export would suffer as they had spent money to buy the commodity.
He said it was wrong because the ban would only benefit government as it would want to satisfy the MoUs signed with neighbouring countries.
Dr Musokotwane said government should not use the mealie meal shortages and exports to injure businessmen.
He argued that the shortages were created by a promise made by President Sata that mealie meal would cost K 50,000 per 25 kilogram bag.
“This is an unrealistic order because they do not understand what millers go through to come up with a bag of mealie meal. These price controls were the things that were rejected in the UNIP days.
“They are not being clear on the issues of agriculture and banning the exports is not a solution to the shortages. The minister said there was enough maize and they didn’t know where to put this year’s harvest,” he said.
Dr Musokotwane said government should come back from the unrealistic promise that was made because this can not subsidise the shortages the country was facing.
He said the plans by government had failed and this idea was not workable and he has since advised government
to find other ways of dealing with this problem.
“The country is experiencing this problem because agriculture policies are in shambles and the minister has admitted this. This only shows that the crisis would be worse this year.
“The minister should spend time to understand the sector that he is gone into instead of just making pronouncements that he does not understand. This government has drifted the focus on agriculture instead of promoting the industry,” he observed.
Dr Musokotwane also said that there was need for government to consult with the traders instead of effecting measures that will promote poverty.
He advised Mr Sichinga to understand the market before he could make any decisions.