ZAMBIA – The government of Zambia has approved the issuance of a Statutory Instrument (SI) to suspend duty on the importation of wheat to meet the local deficit.

Zambia imposed statutory instrument in 2015, which banned the importation of wheat into the country.

The approval, however, is in an effort to facilitate the importation of 100 thousand metric tonnes of the grain, by August 30, 2024.

Cornelius Mweetwa, Chief Government Spokesperson said that the Cabinet, on its last sitting at State House on March 18, 2024 chaired by President HAKAINDE HICHILEMA, decided to lift the ban on the importation of wheat to meet local demand. 

“Occasionally, the Ministry of Agriculture issues permits to allow importation of specific quantities of wheat to meet domestic supply shortfall. As such, the Ministry of Agriculture has given a ‘no objection’ to the importation so as to meet the shortfall,” Mweetwa said in a statement following a Cabinet meeting.

According to him, the suspension will also allow millers to continue production in the face of the low supply of the commodity before the harvesting season, when national wheat stocks are expected to be sufficient.

The approval of the SI comes amid Zambia’s suffering from severe drought due to the El Nino phenomenon, which is worsening harsh weather conditions attributed in part to climate change.

The situation prompted President Hakainde Hichilema to declare the country’s debilitating drought a national disaster and emergency, saying it had devastated food production affecting more than a million households.

In a speech to the nation, Mr Hichilema said he had asked security forces to focus more on food production. He said 84 of the country’s 116 districts were affected by the prolonged drought and that authorities would take food from areas where there is a surplus and distribute it to areas in need.

Additionally, Zambia plans to increase food imports and mobilize UN agencies and local businesses to help.

Government to provide Agri-inputs amid drought

Meanwhile, President HAKAINDE HICHILEMA has directed that all Traditional Leaders be given farming inputs under the Irrigation support and Farmer Input Support Programme -FISP-.

President HICHILEMA says with the current drought being experienced in the country FISP will ensure chiefs lead by example by having food to sustain their chiefdoms.

Speaking during a meeting with Copperbelt traditional leaders, the Head of State said he wants the Chiefs to lead by example in promoting irrigation farming.

The President assured the chiefs that government will put up measures to ensure people in drought hit areas do not starve.

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