The importation of agriculture produce including beef and chicken must be watched closely.
The other day Deputy Minister of Finance Christopher Mvunga was in Livingstone to inspect progress on the Kazungula bridge and came across tonnes of beef, chicken and fish imports pouring into the country from Namibia, South Africa and overseas.
These imports, he was told, were not headed for DR Congo or Great Lakes Region but ZAMBIA. And he was rightfully shocked. More so after the Poultry Association of Zambia announced a few months ago that Zambia was self-sufficient in chicken, ZAMBEEF was voted Africa’s second largest beef and chicken retailer and President Edgar Lungu was passionately calling for the development and protection of the fishing industry.
But even as we speak we still use our scarce foreign exchange at this critical hour to import beef and chicken offals from Europe, China and Brazil.
Who gives these importers the permits and how come the Zambia Revenue Authority is turning a blind eye to this outright economic crime?
More importantly, what is the relationship between the Ministries of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries and the Zambia Revenue Authority? These are key Government agencies and the backbone of the economy but for unexplained reasons the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. How possible?
The Minister of Agriculture has said before: ‘‘Nobody is allowed to import chickens and beef into Zambia unless they are mechanically deboned……I don’t remember anyone in the Ministry of Agriculture informing me that they had issued import permits for chicken or beef.’’
It is happening. Dr Mvunga is a living witness and a credible one at that. He saw these imports with his own eyes. And he was equally shocked.
President Lungu, visiting aquaculture projects in Chalimbana near Lusaka and Sinazongwe in Southern Province, directed that the fish industry in Zambia must be allowed to develop and feed the nation. Zambia has always been self-sufficient in fish. Forty percent of all water resources in the Southern African region are found here.
Our lakes and rivers were until now full of fish and imports were unheard of. In fact many Zambians do not eat imported fish.
At a time the leadership is urging the country to place emphasis on agriculture to transform the economy from its reliance on copper, it is unacceptable that we can tolerate these totally unnecessary and costly imports which make our country look foolish in the eyes of many.