A farmer walks through his field. Sugar cane yields and sucrose in cane are expected to remain relatively unchanged in the 2016/17 production season.
By Nawa Mutumweno
Zambia Sugar Company is reducing its sugar exports into the European Union (EU) to the regional market in view of the sugar reforms in the bloc to be effected in September 2017.
The agribusiness company will this year reduce sales to the EU from 22 percent to 14 percent as it explores Africa’s regional markets, both traditional and new markets.
According to managing director, Rebecca Katowa, this follows the sugar reforms that have impacted on the sugar regime and resulted in prices in the EU converging into global prices.
The prices are below the cost of production and reflect residual markets and key players, namely Brazil, Thailand and India, who put sugar on that market with India’s sugar being subsidized.
’’The strategy is to move volumes away from the EU to regional markets because the regional market provides valuable alternatives. Shifting export sales away from the EU to the region is expected because realisations in these markets will continue to be influenced by exchange rate movements,’’ she elaborated at a stakeholders’ breakfast meeting in Lusaka recently.
The prices of sugar are expected to remain above world levels within the region despite increasing levels of competition among regional producers, Mrs. Katowa added.
The company is looking to expanding exports to the Great Lakes region and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), among other African markets.
Meanwhile, Zambia Sugar will this month-end commission the over K500 million refinery which is projected to more than double sugar production to 90 000 tonnes annually, reaffirming the firm’s position as the largest producer in Africa.
Currently, the sugar agribusiness company produces 40 000 tonnes of sugar per annum.
‘’The project was launched last year and will be on stream at the end of the month and contribute to our growth strategy,’’ she said.
Meanwhile, the company’s Commentary for the Year Ended March 31, 2016 says a number of factors impacted adversely on sugar production in the period under review. These included dry climatic conditions in November and December 2015, power interruptions to irrigation and the outbreak of yellow sugarcane aphids which reduced sugarcane yields by 11 percent across the entire harvest area.
This yield decline was partly offset by a 2 percent increase in area under cane delivered. Smallholder schemes supplied 10 percent of the total 3.102 million tons of cane crushed by the Nakambala mill. Consequently, sugar made was reduced by 10 percent from 424 000 tonnes achieved last year to 380 400 tonnes.
‘’The reduced sucrose in cane was partially offset by improved sugar recoveries in the mill. Refined sugar production also increased to meet growing demand. The season saw a significant improvement in factory throughput, reflecting the benefit of improved equipment reliability and preventive maintenance practices together with a sustained focus on continuous improvement initiatives,’’ the Commentary reads in part.
Total revenue grew by 6 percent year on year, from K1.91 billion to K2.02 billion, largely due to continued growth in the domestic market where direct consumption increased by 7 percent and industrial consumption grew by 4 percent. In order to maximize revenues from reduced production, the sales mix was adjusted by reducing bulk EU exports by 45 percent. The remaining sugar was sold into Africa’s regional markets where prices remained under pressure from world market sugar.
The factory commenced crushing in the third week of April and operations have quickly stabilized. Early season, sugarcane yields are at expected levels and should improve as the crop matures.
Sugar cane yields and sucrose in cane are expected to remain relatively unchanged in the 2016/17 production season. The crop has been negatively affected by drought conditions, power shortages, the low water levels in the Kafue River and pest infestations due to drought stressed cane. Production is, therefore, expected to match the previous season.
Sugar production is, therefore, expected to match the previous season. Reasonably strong growth is expected in the local market. However, margins in the regional export markets are expected to remain under pressure from surplus sugar stocks on the world market.
‘’Realizations in these export markets will continue to be influenced by exchange rate movements. The new expanded sugar refinery will help the company take advantage of the growth in the local and regional industrial sugar markets,’’ it adds.
By Nawa Mutumweno
Norwegian firm, Yara International has been officially launched in Zambia, taking over the operations of Greenbelt Fertilizers Limited at a cost of about $51 million.
Whereas the transaction was first announced in December 2015, it was subject to approval by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
Greenbelt Fertilizers is a leading fertilizer distributor for Zambia, Malawi and Zambia.
Yara International says it has been motivated to acquire Greebelt Fertilizers Limited due to the investment-friendly policies introduced by the Zambian government which are conducive to business, thus attracting long-term investment into the country.
Yara business unit downstream Africa chief executive officer, Bernhard Fonsenka, said by acquiring Greenbelt Fertilizers, Yara will be able to provide sustainable crop nutrition, increase crop yields and farmers’ incomes.
‘’We invested in Zambia because we were motivated by the investment-friendly attitude that we have witnessed through the process of this acquisition. We observed that investment authorities, regulators and partners, all have the determination to attract long-term commitment by easing the cost of doing business,’’ he said at the launch of Yara Zambia on May 4, 2016.
‘’While Yara boasts of its ability to deliver the world’s best agronomic practices and resources to local farmers, it will continue to ensure that the farmer remains at the heart of everything we do with the aim of sustainably increasing their profitability, thereby improving their livelihood,’’ he added.
Speaking earlier, Agriculture deputy minister, Maxus Ngónga said the coming in of Yara in the agriculture sector will bring competition in the marketing of fertilizer.
‘’This investment has come at a time when Zambia is diversifying its economy and our commitment is not only to make Zambia the food basket of the region, but also attract investments that will help us achieve that dream.
‘’As a nation, we are delighted to have a new entrant in the fertilizer sector because this creates competition and helps to push the prices of the product down for the benefit of the farmer,’’ he elaborated.
Norwegian ambassador to Zambia, Arve Ofstad is optimistic that Yara, as a commercial producer of fertilizer, will add value to the Zambian economy through job creation and better yields for farmers.
By Nawa Mutumweno
Zambia is among 12 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa expected to benefit from the newly launched Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA) project that will develop improved maize varieties with resistance and tolerance to drought and diseases affecting maize production.
The varieties have been launched to help the region boost food security.
The STMA project introduced by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), will help increase maize productivity by about 30 to 50 percent and provide 5.5 million smallholder farmers with improved maize varieties.
According to the ProAgri latest report, other beneficiary countries are Benin, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.
STMA project leader, Tsedeke Abate, said the four-year project will improve maize production for over five million smallholder farmer households by the end of 2019 in the targeted beneficiary countries.
‘‘STMA will use modern breeding technologies that will confer the desired resistance to pest and diseases, and tolerant climate stresses like drought and heat to benefit farmers within their socio-economic capabilities, that often dictate their access to important farm inputs such as fertilizer and improved seed,’’ he said.
The project will apply conventional breeding techniques to develop maize varieties and hybrids capable of resisting environmental shocks, including drought, low soil fertility, heat, pests and disease.
‘’The project also seeks to increase commercialisation of improved multiple stress-tolerant maize varities with gender-preferred traits,’’ he elaborated.
STMA will also link up national and regional initiatives to develop strategies that bridge the yield gap and dramatically increase maize production at smallholder farm level.
Continued collaboration with partners will enhance sustainable maize research and development systems in target countries through sustained variety release deployment and adoption which has been insufficient in many sub-Saharan countries, Mr. Abate added.
STMA is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight international development goals that were established following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in 2000, following the adoption of the United Nations Millennium Declaration.
Written by Nancy Saili
The agricultural sector is believed to be the backbone of the Zambian economy thereby alleviating problems associated with poverty and food security. The development of the sector is viewed as one sustainable way of economic growth and ‘Eradicating Extreme Poverty and Hunger’ which is goal number one of the Millennium Development Goals (UN, 2000). The sector contributes to the growth of the economy, to exports, employment of the labour force, income generation, GDP and foreign exchange.
Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture
Recent decades have seen a change in local climate patterns and their interactions with crop yields. It is believed and projected that demand for food will continue to increase in many of the low income countries. This is due to global effect of climate change which is mostly affecting small scale farmers in the developing world. Countries in the developing world like Zambia rely heavily on weather sensitive agriculture such as rain-fed agriculture and as such are adversely affected by effects of climate change. In rain-fed agriculture crop production is highly dependent upon adequate supply of water and optimum temperatures such that an imbalance in any of the two could render a season’s crop to loss. In many countries, increasing climate variability over the years has had a direct influence on the quantity and quality of agricultural production which has led to losses due to weather having an effect on the annual agricultural production and in turn causing uncertainty in projections of food production. Long term climate variations are likely to increase stress on food production and vulnerability of the agricultural sector to climate shifts which may lead to poor performance of the agricultural sector thereby leading to poverty in regions where agricultural production is the main source of livelihood. In a country like Zambia where much of its people are well involved and various livelihoods depend highly on agriculture, farmers maybe badly affected when annual crops fail meaning locally produced food will not be available and since these farmers depend almost entirely on agriculture for employment and income, they not find the money needed to purchase food even if it is available in the market.
Production of major crops, 2001
Source: Zambia Agriculture Dataset: Department for international Development (DFID) 2002.
Agriculture: Source of Emissions
The agricultural sector is among the main sources of emissions in Zambia. At the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP20) in Lima, Peru the Lima Call for Action called for all Parties to develop and communicate INDCs as their ‘contributions’ towards achieving the ultimate objective of Article 2 of the UNFCCC: “to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. In an effort to reduce emissions from the sector, the Government of Zambia through the Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives has embarked on programs to promote and persuade thousands to adopt Climate Smart Agriculture such as Conservation Farming and Agro-forestry.
In the past, in many parts of the country such as the Central, Copperbelt, Northern, Luapula and North-Western Provinces farmers (especially subsistence) had been practicing the ‘Slash and Burn’ type of agriculture or as is popularly known to the locals “Chitemene System.” This system involves the cutting down of trees, stacking them in one place and then burning them in order to create a thick layer of ash. After this is done, crops such as maize, finger millet, sorghum or cassava are then planted. However the agricultural productivity of the Chitemene field is limited to only a few years. When yields begin to decline, a new area is cleared for Chitemene, and the initial site is then left bare. This type of agriculture contributes to climate change, air pollution and loss of wildlife/biodiversity. It is destructive to the environment and recently programs are being developed to discourage this type of agriculture.
Benefits of Climate Smart Agriculture
A typical lunch in most Zambian homes is made up of Nshima (carbohydrates), fish/beef/chicken (proteins) and vegetables (vitamins) which together make a balanced diet. All these foods are products of agriculture. And this is an indication that the country’s domestic economy is based on agriculture. Seeing how much agriculture is practiced in Zambia and of what value it is to the country and its people, it would be hoped that only the best agricultural practices be used. This involves the promotion of Climate Smart Agriculture such as Conservation Farming.
Some farmers are already practicing conservation agriculture but the Conservation Farming Unit (CFU), an independent organization in Zambia is hoping to persuade thousands more to adopt these practices. In the local town of Solwezi in North-Western Zambia a conservation farming program has been put into place for the local people. Solwezi now popularly known for its mines: First Quantum’s Kansanshi mine located about 10km north and Barrick Gold (previously Lumwana mine located about 65 km west of the town centre. However Solwezi is more than just a mining town. Solwezi is endowed with favourable soils for agriculture and its people are in full support of the practice.
In an effort to keep the locals off the streets and also to encourage better agricultural practices and environmental conservation, the conservation farming program (inspired by the pioneering work of Zimbabwean farmer Brian Oldreive) was launched under First Quantum’s Kansanshi mine foundation in partnership with Zambia’s Ministry of Agriculture. In a land where farmers have previously often exhausted the soil and moved on, the farming program teaches simple practices and can be viewed as a model for sustainable agriculture in Zambia and all of Africa.
The Food and Agricultural Organization defined conservation agriculture as “a concept for resource saving agricultural crop production that strives to achieve acceptable profits together with high and sustained production levels while concurrently conserving the environment” (FAO 2007). Conservation farming employs minimal tillage. Unlike traditional methods of burning plant residues, in conservation farming residue from crops are left on the land to minimize erosion and provide organic material. This reduces the need for expensive chemical fertilizers and furrows are created just deep enough to avoid turning up the earth in turn keeping nutrients in the soil and retaining moisture. When the rains come, the water seeps gently into the soil. After which farmers then plant their seeds and wait for the crops to germinate. The success of conservation farming is mainly because it can be practiced by anyone. However, you cannot just hand people seeds and fertilizer and expect them to figure it out. The training program by First Quantum trains participants on how to work their plots of land and make efficient use of the inputs provided to them. This program has proven successful from feedback from participants, it has not only boosted crop yields but also the participants sense of pride through job creation opportunities. According to a sustainability report produced by First Quantum “participants have learned to apply the simple techniques of conservation farming as they feed their families, earn extra income and gain new found pride.” Through the program participants have moved from subsistence to self-sufficiency.
Agriculture is one of the most destructive forces against biodiversity. However, conservation agriculture is a “win-win” for both farmers and environmentalists. Some of the benefits of this practice include; less erosion, better water conservation, improvement in air quality due to lower emissions being produced, soil structure improvement, nutrient retention, soil organic matter enhancement, reduced labor input, precise and efficient use of on and off farm resources (such as seed, fertilizer and manures), and higher yields.
Agro-forestry is a component of conservation farming that involves the planting of trees directly amongst crops so that both will benefit from the naturally-enhancing qualities of the two species. Zambia is a world leader in agro-forestry and could serve as an example for other countries to follow. The benefits of this practice include nitrogen fixation, restoration of agricultural yields, increase in food security, enhanced income generation and reduced pressure to clear nearby forests. This practice is the thread that unites the agriculture and forestry sector in Zambia.
Conservation farming is a key step a in fighting climate change as resources are conserved for future generations. It is a good way of reducing fossil fuels as minimum tillage results in fewer greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere, and less use of chemical fertilizers lessens pollution levels in the air, soil and water. It may be effective as many people will be involved in the practice if government sets up more programs to train farmers and encourage them to practice good agricultural practices.
The colours used in the flag of Zambia are rich in symbolism. Green stands for the nation’s lush flora, red for the nation’s struggle for freedom, black for the Zambian people, and orange for the land’s natural resources and mineral wealth. Additionally, the eagle flying above the coloured stripes is intended to represent the people’s ability to rise above the nation’s problems
The FAO estimates that as growing population continues to push demand for agricultural products upwards, the world may require about 50% more food by 2030, compared to 1998 (FAO, 2005). This will require consistent productivity by small scale farmers who contribute a substantial amount of food crop in Africa. Conservation farming will put us on the right path to achieve that and it would be wise for our government to push for more programs that encourage for climate smart agricultural practices and are at the same time sustaining for the economy. Conservation agriculture is one of the factors that unite social, economic and environmental sustainability. We have the solutions to the problems that we are currently facing and therefore now is the time to take action and help create a better future for all.