GOVERNMENT must provide incentives for farmers to improve on quality as import restrictions are not the best solution to facilitating markets for local products, says National Union of Small Scale Farmers in Zambia (NUSFAZ) director general Dr Frank Kayula.
Dr Kayula said Zambia was still faced with a challenge of improving quality to capture the local market, which needs the Government to provide incentives for farmers to improve on quality.
“No import restrictions or barriers, yes, but we need facilitation for quality, and we agree with the Minister of Agriculture Mr Given Lubinda that import restrictions are not the best solution to facilitating markets for local products,” he said.
“Our market is just about our population of about 15 million at best; if we restrict cross border trade, and apart from the fact that we are signatories to many trade protocols, other countries may reciprocate and make it hard for Zambian products to get into their countries,” he said.
Dr Kayula said his organisation was always working hard knowing that Zambia would have products that might be sold in large quantities outside Zambia other than copper. He said his union was supporting the Ministry of Agriculture on improving the competitiveness of local producers for local and international markets. He said rather than restricting the products coming from outside, it was important to ensure that local products were made of excellent quality and competitive packaging so that consumers in other countries scrambled for Zambian products.
“This can be achieved if standards for various agricultural products are in place, and as a country we can compete on market,” he said.
Dr Kayula said Smallholder Agribusiness Promotion Project (SAPP) had taken the lead in working on standards for groundnuts and beans, and were also spearheading formulation of standards for livestock and livestock products.
He said lack of standards has caused buyers to impose inferior prices for products from small scale farmers even if there was no reference to any standards. “As long as the product is from the small scale farmers, it fetches low prices, and this is unfair to the small scale producers engaged in agribusiness,” he said.
The union has since called for recognition of aggregators who could help small scale farmers to pull quantities and qualities of products that might be supplied with the consistence demanded by most market outlets to deter biased practices against small scale farmer entrepreneurs.