Zambia won’t allow any corn exports until the government has met its target for strategic reserves of the staple food, President Edgar Lungu’s spokesman said.
Zambia and Tanzania are the only southern African countries to produce a surplus in the last season as the worst drought in 35 years curbed production in the region, with USAID estimating that more than 21 million people are in need of emergency food assistance.
“There will not be a single grain of maize exported as long as FRA does not have 500,000 metric tons of maize,” said Amos Chanda, referring to the state-owned Food Reserve Agency. “Government has a sovereign mandate to ensure people don’t starve.”
While the country produced a 634,681-ton corn surplus, the government had only managed to buy 280,000 tons by the start of the month, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. Farmers have rather sold to private buyers that offer higher prices, while the government has also struggled to curb smuggling into neighboring countries including Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Corn meal prices in Zambia rose by an average 16.7 percent in November from a year ago, according to the statistics agency.
Chanda accused grain traders in Zambia of trying to “arm-twist and blackmail” the government into lifting the export ban, speaking late Sunday on state-owned ZNBC TV. Finance Minister Felix Mutati said in his Nov. 11 budget speech that export bans hurt production, and that the government would “refrain from using these instruments.”
Chambuleni Simwinga, president at the Grain Traders Association of Zambia, didn’t respond to calls seeking comment.