CROPS like sugar, cotton and coffee have the potential to diversify Zambia’s economy and contribute significantly to its growth, according to a recent study report by the International Growth Centre (IGC).
The London-based research institute indicates that Zambia was well endowed with natural resources that were suited for the competitive production of the three crops.
The report says the prospects for equitable wealth and income distribution are most available in the sugar and cotton subsectors, which already have a significant number of small-scale producers in the value chain.
The report indicates that the sugar sub-sector holds the greatest potential for growth and exports, while the cotton sector holds the greatest potential for small holder involvement and hence income equality.
The coffee sector emerges as the least attractive among the three sectors because of the capital intensive nature of the sector.
The report further suggests that the key factor which will support the growth of Zambia’s coffee sector is the development of programmes to ease access to finance for coffee growing.
Sugar is one of Zambia’s most important economic sub-sectors and one of the most successful non-traditional exports sectors.
The sugar industry generates over US$45 million in gross exports annually, which has almost doubled from the mid-1990s when export earnings stood at around US$25 million.
“Growth in the sugar sub-sector holds great prospects for Zambia to diversify the economy, which has previously been copper dependent, offering great opportunity for agricultural growth, diversification and employment creation,” it says.
And Zambian, cotton according to the study, is an important sector for the country’s economy as it directly and indirectly supports an estimated 21 percent of the Zambian population while it also accounts for 19 percent of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 32 percent of the value chain of the main agricultural exports.