19 FEB - 05 MAR

Zambian Business Times - - AGRO COMMODITIES -

SUGAR -cane and beet -has re­tained its re­spectable sec­ond po­si­tion as the coun­try’s sec­ond most im­por­tant agro ex­port crop, earn­ing Zam­bia ZMW994mil­lion (about USD100 mil­lion) in 2017. Sugar is com­mer­cially grown with the largest pro­ducer be­ing Maz­abuka based Illovo’s Zam­bia Sugar com­pany.

Zam­bia’s Sugar ex­ports are pro­jected to fur­ther in­crease in 2018 and the com­ing years as more brands and green­field agro projects ma­ture.

Some of the other projects in­clude Sable Group’s Con­sol­i­dated Farm­ing Lim­ited’s (span­ning across Lusaka and cen­tral prov­inces), Ka­fue Sugar and Gourock Group’s Kalung­wishi es­tates - North­ern Prov­ince - based Kasama sugar be­ing read­ily avail­able in most na­tional re­tail out­lets. These sugar es­tates have enough room to ex­pand as they em­bark on ex­tend­ing their out grower schemes.

Other Green­field sugar projects like Spin Ven­ture Group’s Mansa Sugar, in Zam­bia’s Lua­pula prov­ince has also come on board with ag­gres­sive tar­gets. They have lo­cated their fa­cil­i­ties in Lua­pula prov­ince, a re­gion that is close to Zam­bia’s in­dus­trial and min­ing hub, the Cop­per­belt ex­tend­ing into North Western prov­ince. This lo­ca­tion is ideal and clos­est to ex­ports mar­kets such as the DRC and the Great Lakes re­gion.

Zam­bia has a cred­i­ble com­par­a­tive ad­van­tage when it comes to Sugar cane and beet grow­ing as the coun­try en­joys high enough tem­per­a­tures suit­able for sugar cane and mas­sive wa­ter bod­ies like the Zam­bezi, Ka­fue, Luangwa and Lua­pula rivers that the large an­chor sugar es­tates can tap wa­ter from for ir­ri­ga­tion pur­poses en­sur­ing a whole year crop pro­duc­tion cy­cle.

Dur­ing its rainy sea­son that lasts from Novem­ber to March, the sugar farm­ers en­joy deep sav­ings from rain fed crops as most parts of the coun­try, en­joy rel­a­tively good rain­fall, sav­ing up on ir­ri­ga­tion costs. PAGE 14

Suc­ces­sive droughts hit­ting South­ern Africa in 2015-16 led to failed maize har­vests across the re­gion. The El Niño-in­duced floods in 2016 washed away most crops, de­stroyed homes and live­stock, forc­ing many coun­tries to de­clare a state of dis­as­ter.

A re­gional bumper maize har­vest in the last sea­son could, in the in­terim, en­sure food se­cu­rity, but an­other drought year could mean an­other food cri­sis.

The fall army­worm, a rav­en­ous pest which has al­ready de­stroyed thou­sands of hectares of maize crop across the re­gion, was first de­tected in Western and Cen­tral Africa in 2016. To date it has spread to more than 28 coun­tries on the con­ti­nent.

While favour­ing maize, the worm can also feed on more than 80 other plant species, in­clud­ing mil­let, sug­ar­cane, rice, sorghum, veg­eta­bles and cot­ton, mak­ing con­trol a dif­fi­cult task, ac­cord­ing to the FAO.

Ac­cord­ing to Phiri, a sub-re­gional train­ing pro­gramme has been rolled out to raise aware­ness about the worm among small­holder farm­ers in Africa. He said the big­gest worry now was the evolv­ing sit­u­a­tion of the qual­ity of the crops in the field due to the un­even dis­tri­bu­tion of rain­fall across the re­gion.

Some gov­ern­ments are in the process of crop as­sess­ments to get a bet­ter in­sight into how much dam­age has al­ready been done by the worm. The FAO fears that even if the rains come, some crops will not re­cover to nor­mal lev­els. "While we do have fall army­worm, our big­gest con­cern now is the un­even rains," Phiri said.

Most South­ern African Devel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) coun­tries will re­ceive nor­mal to above-nor­mal rain­fall for most of Jan­uary to May 2018, ac­cord­ing to the 21st Cen­tury An­nual South­ern Africa Re­gional Cli­mate Out­look Fo­rum’s mid-sea­son re­view and up­date is­sued in De­cem­ber 2017.

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