Commodity pricing data vital - by Talent Ngandwe


Zambia needs to work hard to come up with coordinated statistics on trade which is a challenge across government departments, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives Director of Planning Julius Shawa has said.




Shawa said that despite Zambia performing relatively well in agricultural commodities pricing due to the presence of agriculture market information system at the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, the country still lagged behind in the provision of trade intelligence information.




Shawa is quoted in the latest CountrySTAT Zambia publication saying that even though the system at the ministry determines local pricing, exposure to the international markets was also important.




"Market information is key; our farmers want a good price and this price needs to be linked to the world price," he said.


Shawa has since called on the government to work hard to translate the policies on trade currently on paper into implementation.




"Trade statistics is what we need to work on, clearly we need to have a system that captures information," he said.




Meanwhile, Food Reserve Agency (FRA) Marketing Manager Lazarous Mawele said Zambia was doing fairly well in local pricing of agriculture commodities.




He said the FRA was using a simple model based on the farmer management budget to come up with a floor price of grain for maize, wheat, cassava and rice.




The farmer management budget takes into consideration production, costs, chemicals, inputs used and transport.




Zambia will soon launch CountrySTAT, a web-based information technology system for food and agriculture statistics. The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives will be the implementing agency for CountrySTAT, a new well-based information system for sub-Saharan Africa being backed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). It will host various data on agricultural production, trade, price and consumption.




Meanwhile, the Zambia Food Security Research Project says stakeholders developing data systems should not sideline information on weather as it has been a catalyst for Zambia's maize bumper harvest.




During the 2009/2010 season, Zambia has produced maize estimated at 2.7 million tonnes, which is the highest in decades.




Anthony Chapoto, co-author of a report titled ‘Factors contributing to Zambia's 2010 maize bumper harvest', says maize production grew by 48 percent during the 2009/2010 farming season mainly due to favourable weather pattern.




The forces driving the increased harvest however remain widely controversial, with the government and the media attributing the increase to government's fertiliser subsidy programme as well as the government's recent efforts to raise maize prices through the FRA.




Chapota says others have argued that the bumper harvest was partially due to the adoption of conservation farming, though none of these have been backed by solid evidence-based research.




He said the increase in maize production is due to the favourable weather patterns, followed by increased fertiliser use, area expansion, increased use of hybrid seed and improved management.,




He adds that for variables his team used total rainfall over the growing season (November to March) derived from data collected at 34 rainfall stations throughout the country.




The Food Security Research Project is a collaborative programme of research, outreach and local capacity building including the Agriculture Consultative Forum, MACO and the Michigan State University Department of Agricultural Economics.