KENYA – Kenya has announced plans to export its maize to Zambia as the drought-stricken country grapples with maize shortage.

Speaking during the Africa Fertiliser and Soil Health Summit held in Nairobi, President William Ruto revealed the move to export maize to Zambia was triggered following a bumper harvest by Kenyan farmers.

President Ruto explained that the Kenyan government had initially negotiated a deal to import maize from Zambia, but now they are considering exporting to Zambia due to the current bumper harvest.

While making the announcement, Ruto also urged the African Heads of State to leverage the African Free Trade Area to allow free trade within the continent.

“That is why it is important to leverage on the Pan African initiative and integration to provide the basis to harness research and technology to develop a robust soil formation system,” Ruto stated

According to Ruto, the government would only deviate from its ban on maize imports only if the local produce would be insufficient. 

Zambia scraps tax on maize imports

Meanwhile, the Zambian cabinet has approved the suspension of tax on all imported maize to address shortage caused by drought, Chief Government Spokesperson Cornelius Mweetwa said on Wednesday.

Zambia has been suffering from severe drought due to the El Nino phenomenon, which is worsening harsh weather conditions attributed in part to climate change.

In February, President Hakainde Hichilema declared the drought a national disaster highlighting that it has adversely impacted the food production in 84 out of the country’s 116 districts, destroying about 1 million hectares of the 2.2 million hectares planted with the staple maize crop.

While the government will be at the centre of importing maize for strategic reserves, the private sector is also encouraged to seize the opportunity and engage in maize imports, Mweetwa said.

Mweetwa, who is also minister of information and media, said the cabinet has instructed the Agriculture Ministry to start issuing permits to Zambians for maize imports.

The decision comes after Zambia’s disaster response agency, recently reported that the country needs about 738,000 metric tonnes of maize to provide for people adversely affected by drought for their food requirements for 14 months.

Gabriel Pollen, national coordinator for the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit, said the maize is required in the immediate response to provide relief food to about 6.6 million people in 84 of the country’s 116 districts adversely affected by the drought.

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