THERE is need to highlight the significance of coffee-growing and other cash crops as a viable means of diversifying the economy through exports, says Minister of Finance Alexander Chikwanda.
Speaking yesterday when he toured the Northern Coffee Corporation plantation at Kateshi Estates in Kasama, Mr Chikwanda said the export of coffee would had the potential to earn the country the much needed foreign exchange and create employment for the local people and thereby reducing poverty.
Mr Chikwanda commended the company for what he termed heroic efforts by engaging on a huge project which took time to yield profit and urged the NCCL management to engage more out-grower farmers in the surrounding communities.
He said coffee growing was a lucrative business and that the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB) had provided grants at an attractive lending rate to be paid over a considerable time frame.
“I would like to commend you for your heroic efforts by engaging on such a huge project. There is need to highlight the significance of coffee-growing and other cash crops as a means to diversifying our economy as it will earn the country foreign exchange and create employment, thereby reducing poverty.
‘‘We need to move away from the over-dependence on the mining sector. I urge you to engage more out-grower schemes within the surrounding communities. This will give us an opportunity to market a Zambian product on the international market,” Mr Chikwanda said.
He said that other countries largely depended on coffee and cocoa, saying that Zambia needed to divert from depending on the mining sector alone. Mr Chikwanda, who planted a coffee plant at the estate, said that the investment would provide an opportunity to market a Zambian product on the international market.
And NCCL general manager Paul Bebbington said that the company started growing coffee in 2012 with an investment of US$20 million but complained that as much as coffee was a lucrative crop, it was difficult to grow as well as maintain because it took a period of two years to mature. Mr Bebbington said that there were no incidents of disease as the Arabic coffee variety was resistant to most diseases and that the area had favourable climatic conditions.
He said the corporation was aiming to grow 2,700 hectares of the Arabic coffee variety.
Currently the coffee plantation has a workforce of 4,000 and that in the next five years, the compay is expcted to increase its employees to 11,000 while more than 10 surrounding communities had been engaged in the out-grower scheme.
Mr Bebbington expressed happiness with the technical support from the Ministry of Agriculture, stating that the corporation was not only determined to revive coffee-growing in Africa but that it also complemented Government’s effort by tackling social and environmental concerns. Mr Bebbington said apart from coffee-growing the corporation also grew soya beans, bananas and maize and that most of the coffee was for export as Zambians were fond of drinking tea.