Zambia able to feed region

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IT is estimated that Zambia possesses 40 percent of water resources in the Southern African Development Community. She has about 6,000 Megawatts unexploited hydro-power potential, while only about 1,985 MW has been developed.
The country also has huge tracts of unexploited land with potential to become the food basket of the region and increase export earnings from food exports.
We have 752, 610 square kilometres  of land out of which over 20 percent of this land is arable and good for agriculture production.
Unfortunately, the irony is that the country is still spending huge amounts of money on importing food, vegetables and processed foods that can actually be produced locally and save millions of US dollars.
This is why we welcome the calls by the Private Sector Development Association (PSDA) on government to boost investment in the food processing sector if the country is to compete effectively in exports at regional and international levels.
We are spending K8 billion annually to import agro-products monthly from South Africa.
This is despite Zambia being self-sufficient in most raw food commodities and yet we lack adequate capacity to process all our agro-products.
According to PSDA chairperson Yusuf Dodia, the high cost of doing business in the country is making Zambia non-competitive to other countries in terms of processing agro-products.
We welcome this call because this will go a long way in boosting our industrial production and help to create more jobs and address the debilitating unemployment we are stuck with.
This can also act as a booster to address the diversification we are striving for so that we continue reducing our dependence on copper for  foreign currency earnings.
Both PSDA and the Zambia Association of Manufacturers are bemoaning the high cost of doing business in Zambia and we hope government can find means of addressing this.
A monthly import bill of K8 billion is quite high and there is need to address it so that resources are retained within the country.
When we look at issues critically, we find that we are importing tomatoes, mangoes, beans, canned vegetables, meats and various other processed foods that we can produce locally and even export some.
We know government has been cognisant of this situation and hence decided to come up with multi-facility economic zones to boost manufacturing output.
However, we think more can still be done so that businesses are encouraged to invest more in agro-processing to encourage value addition.
Some of the products that we are importing such as tooth-picks, tomato paste or baked beans 49 years after independence can all be produced locally!
It is, therefore, important that the cost structure of the food processing industry and generally manufacturing  is reviewed so that we can attract more players in the industry, create more jobs and save the K8 billion monthly imports bill of processed foods from South Africa.

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