ZAMBIA’s agriculture sector has much to offer to the country as well as the SADC region, especially if it can improve productivity in the cattle sector, Zambeef Products Plc’s joint chief executive officer Francis Grogan has observed.
Mr Grogan said there was massive potential and opportunities for exports to the SADC region and that much needed to be done in order to achieve that.
He said agriculture, agri-processing and the food industry should be the new focus for Zambia to generate wealth for farmers and employment opportunities for many people as the region was as well fed.
Mr Grogan said the establishment of the new Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock was a welcome move, adding that Zambeef hope that the necessary resources and support for veterinary services and extra extension officers would materialise.
He said Zambia had a small beef herd of 3 to 3.5 million head while the country has the capacity to carry at least 12 to 15 million, through the improved channelling extra resources into veterinary support, improved husbandry methods and better nutrition.
Mr Grogan said Zambia was self-sufficient in the production of all the basic foodstuffs such as maize, wheat, soya, beef, chicken, dairy, pork, which was a major achievement over the last 20 to 30 years.
“In that way, we can grow the national herd fairly quickly, because the current off take of the traditional herd is still only around 6 percent, while off take from the commercial herd is over 30 percent.
“Surrounding us here is a market of 354 million people in SADC and SADC needs to start feeding itself, and now we need to keep improving on that so that we can export our surplus to these 354 million people we have around us,” he said.
Mr Grogan said such growth in the sector would not only develop rural areas and contribute to job creation but also generate foreign exchange income through exports to other markets throughout the region.
He further urged farmers to focus on tapping into neighbouring markets due to their proximity as well as opportunities resulting from increasing incomes and population across the region.
“The commissioning of the Zamhatch in Mpongwe and Zampalm in Mpika projects will tremendously increase Zambeef’s poultry production capacity as well as open up new markets for the much needed crude palm oil.
“The opportunity to create employment in agriculture; primary and agri-processing is enormous, and about 90 percent of herds are in the hands of small-scale farmers and we deal extensively with small-scale farmers all over Zambia,” he said.
Mr Grogan said the country had natural resources for livestock production and that the market was right on the doorstep, saying investment should be at focus to the grow the economy.