Zambia Can Export 400,000 MT of Corn


Jul 20, 2023 | Agricultural Markets News

Reading time: 2 minutes

Zambia’s Corn crop is expected to grow by 23 percent to 3.3 MMT in MY 2023/24 (May 2023 to April 2024), mainly due to a 27 percent upsurge in area harvested to an estimated 1.4 million hectares (MHa). According to the Ministry of Agriculture in Zambia, the number of small- and medium-scale farming households that planted crops in MY 2023/24 expanded by 44 percent. The agricultural sector in Zambia is dominated by smallholder farmers with limited access to irrigation technologies. As a result, Corn production is almost entirely dependent on rainfall.

During the production season, Zambia experienced floods, dry spells, and crop diseases, which had a negative impact on Corn yields and primarily affected the major Corn-producing areas of the Southern, Eastern, and Central provinces of Zambia. As a result, the expected Corn yield of 2.3 MT/Ha in MY 2023/24 is 5 percent lower than Zambia’s 5-year average Corn yields. However, due to the upsurge in area, the estimated 3.3 MMT of Corn production in MY 2023/24 is 16 percent higher than the average Corn production of Zambia over the past five years.

Planting conditions at the start of the season were generally favorable except in the northwestern region that received below-average rainfall. However, heavy rains in mid-January over a wide area, including the Southern, Central, Eastern, and Lusaka provinces, resulted in severe flooding and crop damage. Despite the heavy showers, precipitation performance has been below average for much of the season, with dry conditions in February further impacting crops, particularly over southwestern areas. According to Zambia’s Department of Agriculture, 92,000 Ha of cropland was destroyed by heavy rains and flash floods, and the dry spell damaged 219,610 Ha.

The 2022/23 agricultural season was also characterized by an outbreak of fall armyworm and stalk borer that impacted yields negatively. The cultivation of genetically engineered (GE) Corn is still prohibited in Zambia. However, the country has made strides toward revising its biosafety policy. This positions Zambia as more pro-biotechnology. The revised policy is expected to give momentum to a change in biosafety legislation from the currently restrictive approach to a more science-based and enabling environment. These changes could help Zambia combat future outbreaks of pests and diseases.

Smallholder farmers account for more than 90 percent of Corn production in Zambia. To increase the productivity of smallholder farmers, the Zambian Government introduced the Farmer Input Support Program (FISP) program in 2009. The FISP supplies government-subsidized seeds and fertilizer to smallholder farmers. In MY 2023/24, more than a million smallholder farmers received 10 kilograms (kg) of Corn seed, 300 kg of fertilizer, and either 25 kg of soybean seed or 20 kg of groundnut seed under the FISP.

The Zambian Government has announced that they will continue supporting small-scale farmers with agricultural inputs in the future. More than half of Zambia’s Corn production is concentrated in three areas, namely the Central, Eastern, and Southern provinces. Almost all the Corn planted in Zambia is white Corn and is mainly used for human consumption.

Zambian Corn Export Potential

Post estimates Zambia has approximately 400,000 MT of Corn available for export in MY 2023/24, based on higher production and after making provision for 500,000 MT of Corn stocks held as a strategic food reserve. The Zambian Food Reserve Agency (FRA) is mandated to buy at least 500,000 MT of Corn annually to keep as a national strategic food reserve. The purpose of the national strategic food reserve is to ensure a reliable supply of Corn for Zambia during shortfalls in supply, which might arise due to droughts, floods, or other natural disasters.

Other sources: USDA

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