The Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute in collaboration with FoodTrade held a Soya Policy Action Group (SOPAG) validation workshop on 17th July 2017 at the Golden Peacock Hotel in Lusaka to discuss preliminary findings of two studies: Impact of Import and Export Bans in Agricultural Markets and their Implications on Soybean Smallholder Farmers; and Effects of Produce Cess / Crop Levy on Trade of Selected Crops in Zambia.

During his opening remarks, IAPRI Executive Director Mr Chance Kabaghe reminded the participants that the workshop was not a political or council meeting, but an important stakeholders’ technical meeting aimed at validating research work done. “Participants are expected to share ideas, evaluate policies based on the research findings that will be presented and agree on practical recommendations and the way forward on the taxes and agricultural policies”, he added. He also encouraged the meeting to be interactive, and urged all to voice their opinions on the taxes and their effects on the agricultural sector in Zambia.

Hon Maxas Ng’onga, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and Lands, was also in attendance and thanked the organizers of the meeting for inviting him to participate in the meeting. He indicated that issues on trade are important in spurring agricultural development. “Government makes certain decisions based on what is prevailing”, he said. He continued by stating that “though issues of the export ban may be painful, sometimes they are necessary. The situation which Zambia experienced the past marketing season was precarious and threatened the food security”. He was convinced it was the main reason government had to introduce an export ban on maize and its product. However, he was happy that government had waved the export ban and hoped the private sector would take advantage of it.

In his presentation on the Impact on Soybean of Import and Export Bans on Smallholder farmers, Mr Charles Mulombwa, a Research Consultant, showed the captured views and perceptions of farmers, processors, government as well as experts in the Soybean value chain. He made emphasis on the fact that these were perceptions and may not have been conclusive. He also stated that he was looking forward to receiving more recommendations and new information for the completion of the full report.

Also making a presentation was Mr Stephen Kabwe, a Research Associate at IAPRI, gave a brief history on the introduction of crop taxes as revised by local government in 1992. He stated that crop produce cess is a levy imposed on agricultural commodities that are being transported from one district to another administered by local authorities (District Council). He continued by stating that the cess generally brought a lot of resistance among smallholder farmers because it increased the cost of doing business and reduced competitiveness.

Moderating the deliberations of the meeting was IAPRI Outreach Director Mr Ballard Zulu, who indicated that closing the borders negatively affected farmers, contrary to the objective of protecting them. “The notion that Zambia would run out of food was not based on empirical evidence”, he stressed.