GOVERNMENNT will continue to invest in crop diversification in agriculture as well as review the sector’s marketing strategies, President Michael Sata has said.
President Sata, speaking in Lusaka yesterday during his address to Parliament said agriculture was key to ensuring national food and nutritional security, mitigating poverty levels and creating jobs.
Mr Sata said to this effect, Government would enhance the use of science and technology in pursuit of its policy objective of achieving a competitive, diversified and sustainable agricultural sector.
He said in 2012, the sector contributed 19.2 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and this was on account of good performance of the crops and livestock sub-sectors.
The President said a positive growth was registered in crops such as wheat, barley, soya beans and rice in the 2012/2013 agricultural season but that maize production fluctuated regionally because of the unfavourable rainfall pattern.
He said the focus of 2014 would be to continue investing in the crop diversification programme and help trigger the desired six per cent annual growth.
Government would, among others, continue the recapitalisation of Kafue’s Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia.
In addition, Government would continue restructuring the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) aimed at providing access to inputs for 900,000 small-scale farmers. This will be complemented by up-scaling the electronic voucher system.
He said to increase productivity among small-scale farmers, Government would focus efforts on modernising agricultural production through science, technology and mechanisation.
The Head of State said his administration would also promote conservation agriculture, use of improved seed varieties and diversify on-farm activities and that these measures would be supplemented by enhanced extension services.
He said Government would continue to make land available for agricultural development under the farm bloc programme, adding that works at the Nansanga and Luena farm blocs were progressing well.
In Nansanga, Mr Sata said Government had constructed roads and dams and connected the farm bloc to the national electricity grid.
In Luena, construction of infrastructure was already underway. He said land had been identified for farm bloc development in North-Western, Copperbelt, Western, Eastern, Muchinga and Northern provinces.
Additionally, Mr Sata said consultations to identify land for developing farm blocs with our traditional leaders in Lusaka and Southern provinces were still underway.
He said to reduce over-dependence on rain-fed agriculture, the Government was committed to progressively bring 17,000 hectares of land under irrigation by 2016.
He informed the House that more than 4, 500 hectares of land was now under irrigation as part of the agriculture expansion programme.
He also said Government’s interventions in the livestock sub-sector were mainly in the restocking and disease control programmes and that this was done through the creation of livestock centres and establishment of disease free zones.
“In 2014, we will continue promoting increased livestock production and productivity by increasing the number and quality of various genetically superior breeds of livestock,” he said.