By Amb. Emmanuel Mwamba
I am a strong advocate of giving business to local enterprises, local contractors and local service providers.
But unfortunately, many times we let ourselves down. We can’t satisfy or supply or meet the market demand adequately.
Look at the case of our tomato and onion bans.
They have become a seasonal custom.
Every season, our farmers demand the ban on the importation of onions and tomatoes claiming that foreign imports make their crops and produce go to waste.
Government usually complies and effects the importation ban but the supplies dry up within a few weeks into the ban.
We have to resort to imports once again.
This is because we don’t farm all-year-round, we don’t farm under irrigation and therefore can’t satisfy the market beyond a few weeks in the tomato-and-onion season.
The numerous export and import bans we effect in the agricultural sector make us an unreliable market in the region.
This happens in maize and wheat marketing, edible oils and other similar products.
We probably should take a different route.
Taking goods and produce to DRC should not be smuggling!
The term “smuggling” should not exist in our business and trade vocabulary with the DRC! That’s a yawning market.
We are surrounded by a 400 million people market in Southern Africa. Let’s plan for such a market, produce for such a market instead of effecting these import and export bans.
A few weeks after we effected the ban, we can’t supply onions as we produce seasonally under small hecterage and the price of onions has therefore shot up to K200 an onion bulb!
And now we have to lift the ban, and import under emergency, 100,000 tonnes of onions a few weeks after we effected the ban.
So before we enforce protectionist policies, maybe we must broaden our scope.
Besides, with the operationalisation of the Africa Continental Free Trade (AfCFTA), our borders are now supposed to be open to all African producers, and our market has grown to a 1.3billion people with a GDP of $3trillion beginning January 1, 2021.