Corn, Soya Agro exports continue to soar
ZAMBIAs AGRO exports have continued to register significant growth trends month on month with corn – maize- now officially the biggest export cash crop. Corn meal which is the country’s traditional and staple food is now being grown to an extent were the national consumption is outstripped with available harvest for the export markets.
For the month of November 2017, corn and corn seed exports were recorded to the tune of K175million (about USD17.5million), an increase of about K11million (about USD1million) from the previous month of October 2017 which recorded export earnings of K164million (about USD16.4million). Corn production is Zambia is well diversified and grown across the country in small, medium and large commercial farming segments.
The Zambia National Farmers Union - ZNFU and the Ministry of Agriculture announced a corn bumper harvest for the 2016/2017 season of 3.6million m/tons up from the 2016 harvest of about 2.8million metric tons. Zambia’s local consumption for both human and industrial use is estimated at about 2million metric tons leaving the excess of about 1.6million metric tons available for export.
Soya beans and soya oil cake exports took a strong second position among agro exports recording export values for November 2017 of K155million (about USD15.5million), up from October export value of K59million (about USD5.9million). This is a jump of 2.6 times month on month. This crop also recorded an increase of 351,000 m/tons for the 2016/2017 harvest season. Soya has emerged as a versatile and important crop for production of cooking oil and a supplement to animal feeds.
Other top five agro exports in the latest numbers availed to ZBT for November 2017 were cane and beet sugar with export earnings of about K57million (USD5.7million). Sugar is commercially grown in Zambia, with the largest producer being Mazabuka - Southern Province - based Illovo’s Zambia Sugar company. Sugar exports are projected to further increase as more brands and greenfield agro projects reach maturity. Already, we have 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 and more Greenfield sugar projects like Spin Ventures Group’s Mansa Sugar, in Zambia’s Luapula province.
Tobacco has made the top five agro export list by value for November recording export earnings of K24.7million (about USD2.5million). Minister of Agriculture Dora Siliya announced in May 2017 that Burley Tobacco production has rebounded with about 30% increase is produce expected in 2017. Tobacco production had jumped from about 6,500 m/tons to about 8, 400 m/tons with Virginia tobacco production largely remaining flat at about 12,000 m/tons. It is these increases in production that account for improved export earnings.
The Tobacco sector in Zambia has received a further boost after the British American Tobacco -BAT undertook the construction of a $USD15million tobacco processing plant in Lusaka South Economic Multi Family Zone. Another global tobacco company, Roland Imperial Tobacco -RIT announced plans to construct a processing plant valued at $USD150million in Chipata, with construction expected to take off this year 2018. This buying industrial and processing capacity being created is expected to lead to better value chain creation, market competition and better farmer’s prices and more export dollars for Zambia.
Fresh cut roses have also rebounded and was among the top five export commodities by value in November 2017. Fresh roses exports recorded export earnings for Zambia to the tune of K15.6million (about USD1.6million). Rose flowers farming had seen a decline after the demise of the airline industry that was used for timely delivery in the European markets. The rose flower farming output is now visible following the boost in the 2015 Zambian government budget that cut 15% and 5% customs duty on the greenhouses and rose seedlings imports. With Zambia Airways coming back it’s as if Zambia would be going back to the Agriflora days when fresh cut roses were flown out of Lusaka to the European Union markets.
Zambia’s export earnings have largely been driven by raw and semi-process Copper export which has remained the nation’s main export earner accounting for over 70% of the country’s total export earnings. Efforts to diversify the economy by the government and concerned citizens have mostly been hampered by lopsided policies, changes and complete abandonment in some progressive policies after successive political power changes. Zambia also needs to diversify and further develop the copper industry value chain by supporting localization of upstream industries, supporting existing copper cable manufactures such as ZAMEFA, ZALCO and Neelkampth Cables which are operating in Zambia and providing additional economic activity from the copper that would have been exported in raw form.
There is also need for attraction of high tech copper wire production companies that can further ensure not only technology and skills transfer but also jobs relocation back into Zambia were the copper is mined. This is perhaps the biggest job which all successive mines minister’s and governments in Zambia have failed to leverage and deliver more economic benefits for the country.