Increased cost of inputs, competition from contrabands take a toll on Zambia’s agriculture, report
25-10-2019 08:29:01 | by: Bob Koigi | hits: 3548 | Tags:

The agricultural sector contributed only 6.7% to Zambia's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017, but it is the most important to the country from a socio-economic point of view, employing almost 54% of the labour force in 2018 according to the latest report by Research and Markets.

The report covers the agri-business sector in Zambia, with comprehensive information on the size and state of the sector, production figures, investment and government actions in the sector, trade regulations and barriers to entry.

Zambia's economy grew by an estimated 3.5% in 2018, but the economy is vulnerable to variations in the copper price, and to drought, and economic growth was mostly due to growth in the services and mining sectors that offset a contraction in the agricultural sector as a result of low rainfall.

Challenges facing Zambia's agri-business sector are the increasing cost of inputs such as electricity, fuel and wages, and competition from illegally imported edible oil. Zambia`s agriculture is predominantly rain-fed, making the sector highly dependent on weather patterns, although there are abundant surface and sub-surface water resources. Most of the irrigated land is found on commercial farms. Other challenges faced by the sector include limited mechanisation and restricted access to credit by smallholder farmers in particular.

Large commercial farms, although they comprise a small percentage of the total number of farms, play an important role in the sector, as they account for most of the output of sugar cane, tobacco, wheat, potatoes, and soya beans.

The most widely grown crops are maize, groundnuts (peanuts), sweet potatoes, cassava, rice and mixed beans. Other important crops are soya beans, sunflower, wheat, sorghum, millet and various vegetables and fruits.

Challenges faced by the horticultural sector include informal markets that are uncompetitive, not regulated and non-transparent, inconsistencies in supply that cause high price volatility and large post-harvest losses, insufficient cold chain infrastructure, and disorganised marketing systems.

There are profiles of 39 companies operating in the Zambian agri-business sector, including Zambeef Products, the largest vertically integrated food retailer, which uses more than 16,000ha each year to produce irrigated and rain-fed crops such as maize, wheat and soya beans, Mount Meru Millers Zambia, which has a 20% share of the edible oil market, Zambia Sugar, which produces more than 90% of the country's sugar. There are profiles of a number of cotton companies including Parrogate Ginneries, China-Africa Cotton Zambia, Grafax Cotton Zambia and Alliance Ginneries, and tea companies such as Zaffico Tea, which announced plans to increase production.