GOVERNMENT should start thinking seriously about attracting more foreign and local investors to the agricultural sector whose potential is yet to be fully exploited, Copperbelt Mining, Agricultural and Commercial Show Society Chairman Bill Osborn has said.
Mr Osborn said while government was trying its best to revive the agricultural sector, a lot needed to be done to fully exploit its potential and make it one of the major contributors to the country’s economy.
He said in an interview in Kitwe yesterday that government should attract more investors the agricultural sector by marketing the benefits of such investment.
“Both local and foreign investors should be encouraged to venture into the agricultural sector and be convinced that their produce would find ready market in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as well as the entire regional. So, if you have produced a lot of crops for export, you can also earn foreign exchange.
“Apart from a ready market for agricultural produce, Zambia has good and fertile land for agricultural purposes. In fact, the rainfall pattern is not bad. So with this situation, I think Zambia has the potential to develop the agricultural sector, but it has not yet being fully exploited. Government needs to do more to fully exploit the agricultural sector,” Mr Osborn said.
Mr Osborn said looking at the current economic challenges, it was imperative that government looked seriously at developing the agricultural sector which was renewable unlike mining that was a waste asset.
“If the potential of the agricultural sector is fully exploited, it can feed Zambia and can earn substantial amount of foreign exchange through exports. Agriculture is a renewable resource, unlike mining which is a waste asset,” he said.
Mr Osborn said the economic situation in the country would only improve if the diversification of the economy was implemented to generate more foreign exchange income, adding that there was also need to encourage investment in export market to bolster the declining copper industry.
He, however, said there was no need to blame government or any individual about the escalating prices of the essential prices and the general state of the economy.
“There is no need to blame the government for the bad state of the economy or the high prices of essential commodities. What is needed is to deal with the issues that are affecting the economy. It is not feasible that the change of government will bring about instant recovery of the economic situation in the country,” Mr Osborn said.
“To set the stage for economic recovery, there is need to encourage diversification to generate more foreign exchange income. There is also need to encourage investment in export market, to bolster the declining copper industry.
There is also need for a stable tax regime especially in the mining industry to win the confidence of both local and foreign exchange,” Mr Osborn said. “Diversification is something which should have been done many years ago and has been talked about for such a long time without any positive action being taken. Hence, there is no cushion available when the price of copper depreciates dramatically. It bears such a negative effect on the exchange rate and employment,” he said.