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Zambia Ban on Maize Exports Hurts Import-Reliant DR Congo

The decision by Zambian authorities to cut maize exports is hurting the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose southern regions consider the grain a staple food and have relied on Lusaka and South Africa, for years for the supply.

Now authorities in the DR Congo want Lusaka to reconsider its decision, with officials in Kinshasa saying they want a deal in black and white to protect future trade in food to prevent shortages.

Shortage of maize is hurting locals as they are now buying maize meal at more than three times the price two months ago.

In early March, a 25kg bag of maize was sold for 25,000 Congolese francs ($11.21). This week, the same bag is going for 92,000 Congolese francs ($40.37).

Vital Kamerhe, deputy prime minister in charge of the economy, said this week the scarcity is a result of Zambia stopping exports to deal with its own local shortages.

The causes of this situation are linked in particular to the deficit in local production in the face of demand, to the restrictions on Zambian exports and to the high cost of imports, as well as to the deterioration of climatic conditions, which is affecting agricultural production in the sub-region,” Kamerhe said.

Earlier in April, Zambia imposed export restrictions on maize, a measure that has affected DRC’s Haut-Katanga province, which borders Zambia and depends heavily on imports from Lusaka.

The province is home to about five million people. Other neighbouring provinces, too, are hurting.

“Talks with Zambia should be initiated with a view to obtaining a firm supply agreement”, said Kamerhe. He added that the DRC government should engage in similar talks with the South African government.

The shortage is ironic, however. The DRC has the biggest arable land in Africa, and is colloquially considered the world’s right lung, given its heavy forest cover and regular rainfall.

But some of its productive provinces have been in constant conflict and armed groups roam the eastern regions rich in volcanic soils and virgin lands.

A delegation of ministers is expected in Haut-Katanga to meet with farmers to seek internal solutions that reduce dependency on imports.

Source : Ttheeastafrican