Maize export ban

THERE is urgent need for the Government through the relevant security wings to strictly enforce the ban on the exportation of maize. Government on 5th April, 2016 through the Ministry of Agriculture imposed a ban on the export of maize to enhance food security in the country. And an Inter-agency Team to undertake a verification exercise to ascertain the actual quantities of maize that was held by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA), the Grain and Millers Associations of Zambia and some members of the Zambia National Farmers Union-ZNFU was then established. This ban was also aimed at stabilising mealie-meal prices across the country at the time. Owing to the prevailing situation, many of our citizens became highly vigilant such that they impounded vehicles suspected to be involved in the smuggling of maize to the neighbouring countries. It is worth noting that this ban on the export of maize and maize products has not been lifted by Government as the Agriculture Minister Dora Siliya succinctly told Parliament last week. Thus, it is vitally important that the war against smuggling of our staple food by unscrupulous businessmen and women is fought with heightened vigour and determination particularly this time round. It is common knowledge that hunger is looming in many countries in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) due to harsh climatic conditions that characterised the last rainfall season. The effects of the El Nino were brought to bear on almost all countries in the region either in form of protracted drought spells as was the case for Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, South Africa or flooding experienced in countries like Mozambique. As such, the food crisis situation many countries find themselves in now comes as no surprise at all. Many are food insecure, hence the demand for the maize grain is quite high. Luckily, in our case, we received normal to above normal rainfall though later than was anticipated. However, this is what enabled majority of our farmers to plant their crops and had bumper harvest. Going by the above-mentioned, it puts our maize grain the most sought after commodity by our neighbours particularly from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), Zimbabwe and Malawi. The impromptu check undertaken by the Copperbelt Minister Mr Bowman Lusambo at Kasumbalesa border post on Saturday night must be commended and need support to ensure that our country’s food security is guaranteed. The mere fact that some vehicles were impounded carrying maize on such an incognito mission in the wee hours goes to show the severity to which the smuggling and illegal exportation of the maize grain is. If this was discovered at one border post, what about the rest of border posts? The Kasumbalesa saga could be a mere tip of an ice-berg in the sense that there could be lots of maize which is being illegally exported out of the country every day. We think that there is great need for tight security at the border posts through deployment of adequate manpower to all border posts to make sure that the officers are not overwhelmed by the traffic of smugglers through our exit points. We urge all the citizens to show patriotism by reporting all suspicious vehicles carrying the maize grain headed for the border posts to the police and where possible impound such trucks.