Corn Tops Zambia’s 2017 annual exports revenues at ZMW1.4billion, largest foreign exchange earner
Corn exports for Zambia for the year ended December 2017 reached K1,371million (about US$140million), according to data compiled by Zambian Business Times Commodities desk. Maize exports enjoyed stronger numbers in March and April last year with monthly corn exports of US$23million and US$26 million respectively. The other surge in exports in corn was recorded in Q3: 2017, post the lifting of the maize export ban from October to December. Export earnings ranged from US$11million to about US$17million on a monthly basis.
The insights into analysis of Zambia’s total agro export earnings from January to December 2017 revealed that maize/corn earned the country the largest foreign exchange, seconded by cane and beet sugar while tobacco was the third largest earner followed by soya beans and cake. Cotton was the fifth largest earner.
Maize is now officially the country’s biggest export cash crop and being the nation’s staple crop, is being grown in bulk to cater for both food security and export requirements.
The best part of the corn production story in Zambia is that it is not dependent on a few large farmers or regions, but is grown across a well - diversified spectrum and across small, medium to large commercial farmers. It is one crop that is even grown in backyards by city dwellers, mostly owing to the crop being a big part of the country’s long entrenched traditional food culture.
The Zambia National farmers Union - ZNFU and the Ministry of Agriculture announced a bumper harvest for the 2016/2017 season of 3.6million metric tonnes up from the 2016 harvest of about 2.8million metric tonnes.
The country’s local consumption for both human and industrial use is estimated at about 2million metric tonnes leaving the excess of 1.6million metric tonnes for export purposes. Some of the big players in the corn commodity business include CHC commodities, Afgri Corporation, Seaboards local unit and National Milling Company to mention but a few.
Zambia enjoys availability of untapped fertile and arable land that can be utilized to double and make the maize exports earn the country over US$1billion in export earnings alone. Suffice to say Zambia has the potential to be Africa’s bread basket. The country is landlinked and surrounded by (8) neighbouring countries with the East and Central African block providing a ready and relatively shorter distance market.
The small and medium scale farmer’s productivity of corn per acre remains a challenge, but efforts to improve input quality such as certified and adapted seeds as well as specially developed fertilizers remain the key to unlocking better corn output.
Maize silo’s in Zambia’s Mkushi farming block. Corn was Zambia’s 2017 largest agro export earner accounting for ZMW1.4billion in revenues.