President warns of tough times

Government will in the next five years undertake austerity measures to stabilize the macro-economic situation and build greater investor confidence, President Edgar Lungu has said.And President Lungu has undertaken that the agriculture sector, fisheries and livestock would be the main focus around which other sectors would be anchored in an integrated manner under the Seventh National Development Plan.He said agriculture would therefore be the major priority of the Patriotic Front (PF) government’s economic diversification agenda.

The Head of State said this yesterday when he officially opened the first session of the 12th National Assembly under the theme: “Building an integrated multi-sectoral approach to development that enhances inclusiveness in development without leaving anyone behind.”“My Government will continue to undertake austerity measures to stabilize the macro-economic situation and build greater investor confidence. Further, we will ensure that our macro-economic policies are consistent and predictable, to enable the public and private sector plan effectively in the medium and long-term,” President Lungu said.

He said in the next five years his Government’s broad macro-economic objectives would include archiving double digit Gross Domestic Product growth and attaining single digit inflation rate and increasing and broadening domestic revenue collection.President Lungu said Government would continue to ensure that the public debt remained sustainable in order to increase the fiscal space and create room for development financing.And addressing the agriculture and industrialization sector, President Lungu said agriculture was the key lever for improving rural livelihoods.

He said his Government would focus on boosting agriculture production, enhancing productivity and increasing earnings for the farmers. ‘‘We have to make agriculture a real business venture even for small-scale and peasant farmers,” he said.The Head of State his Government would look closely at the agriculture supply chain in order to make as much capital out of all the produce harvested by hardworking people in diverse parts of the country.He said the Government would ensure that every crop took a tremendous amount of investment from planting to harvesting.“The challenge is how to create opportunities for the hardworking farmers, so that they can increase their income and truly prosper. How can we position the farmers to engage in the market place and thereby the economy? How can we strengthen the producer-consumer links in agriculture? How can we help our farmers and the agriculture sector in general to attain value addition on the way to market?” President Lungu said.He said the solution was to make farmers aggregate and produce reliable volumes.“This means that they are more likely to sell, and they were less likely to lose supply contracts because they fail to hit quantity and quality targets. Helping farmers to aggregate and store and linking them to markets can lead to more opportunities for farmers to produce more and earn more,” he said. The Head of State said his Government must seriously look at building for small and medium scale farmer, a well structured path from the field to market, retailer and consumer.He said the sector would need to become sustainable through access to clean energy, affordable financing and links to the market.

President Lungu said as a demonstration of the PF’s resolve to diversify the agriculture sector, his Government’s primary responsibility was to enhance the sector’s capacity to achieve mass production and feed into the agro-manufacturing sub-sectors.He said in order to archive such, his Government would steadfastly attract investment in farm mechanism and introduce science and technology to stimulate production.President Lungu said the majority of Zambian farmers, particularly small-scale farmers, had low levels of mechanization and usually depended on hand tools and rudimentary implements for cultivation.He said this posed a major hindrance to the expansion of land under cultivation and productivity.

President Lungu said the use of the hand-held hoe for cultivation was now being discouraged in Africa because among other disadvantages, it poses serious health risks to users.“The AU agenda on women participation on agriculture at the AU summit in 2015 unveiled a major programme to banish the hoe to the museum,” he said.

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