THE Policy Monitoring and Research Centre (PRMC) says the full migration of farmers to the e-voucher system coupled with the importation ban for onion and table potatoes could spur horticulture sector growth.
PRMC executive director Bernadette Deka noted that with the two developments, more farmers will venture into onion and table potatoes farming which will further ensure that local demand for the commodities.
The Agriculture Ministry recently announced that it had notified the Zambia Revenue Authority in a letter to restrict the importation of onion and table potatoes in line with a government directive to prioritize and promote the consumption of locally produced fruits and vegetables.
Ms Deka said restricting the importation of horticultural crops particularly onion and table potatoes will promote and strengthen the horticultural value chain, which has shown positive growth potential over the years.
‘PMRC believes that with the full migration to the e-Voucher and the restriction on importation of the commodities, more farmers will venture into onion and potatoes farming which will further ensure that local demand for the commodities is met,” she stated.
She added that the move will promote crop diversification among small-holder farmers, the majority of whom still grow the staple maize.
“Farmers will be able to shift to growing onion and table potatoes. This will in turn increase household income and wealth among the farmers and also enable them to achieve food security and nutrition in their households.
“Furthermore, the increased participation of farmers in the production of these specific crops will increase off-taker opportunities in the industry. This tends to provide ready markets for the products and reduce the transaction costs farmers face in trying to access these markets for that particular commodity,” she added
Ms Deka also explained that the move will work towards stabilizing the balance of payments considering that it will become expensive to import onion and table potatoes because of the continuous depreciation of the Kwacha.
“The country will be able to save enough money for use in other undertakings such as procuring medical drugs and vaccines inter alia which are currently important in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This move will also stimulate local production as well as generate a marketable surplus of the product for distribution in chain stores and exports in foreign markets.” she explained.
She said on the other hand, consumers will be able to access onions and potatoes at affordable prices in the market.