ZAMBIA’S farmers have the capacity to become leading players in the regional market place as her agriculture is the envy of many countries in Africa, says ZAMBEEF joint chief executive officer Carl Irwin.
Mr Irwin said SADC and COMESA regions to which Zambia belonged represented vast opportunities for the agriculture industry.
He explained that there were 460 million people in SADC and COMESA and Zambia needed to ensure the agriculture industry was competitive in this market.
He told delegates during a panel discussion at the Euromoney Zambia Finance and Investment Conference in Lusaka last week that Zambia was the envy of many countries in Africa and around the world in terms of agricultue.
He said this was becuase the country was self-sufficient in many agricultural products, including beef, milk, chickens, eggs and soybean which was a huge credit to Zambia and the agricultural sector.
“With more than 700,000 paid-up members of the Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU), small-scale farmers form the backbone of the sector and have an important role to play.
“ And with half the population of Zambia relying on agriculture, the sector is the largest employer of people and vital to the economy,” said Mr Irwin.
He said Zambia’s abundant water, fertile soil and conducive climate had the country’s farmers a competitive advantage, and Zambeef’s extensive retailing and distribution network linked them to markets and gave them the potential to supply the region.
Mr Irwin further said that improvements in infrastructure, particularly roads and telecommunications in the last 20 years had also contributed to strengthening the sector and helped Zambeef make the national supply chain more efficient.
“For me the most important thing is creating the market, and if you do that you will see the supply follow. The agriculture sector reacts quickly when the market is created; the critical thing is creating this market,” he said.
He said that companies such as Zambeef enabled the economies of scale that were necessary for Zaambia to be a big player in the region.