ZAMBIA – Zambia’s production of its single most important crop, corn, is set to reach an all-time high record in the Marketing Year (MY) 2021/22 reaching 3.6 million tons.
The bumper harvest follows its production of 3.4 million tons in 2020/21 and 2 million tons in 2019/20.
The steady rise in production is attributed to increase area put under production and productivity courtesy of availability and adoption of improved production technologies like higher-potential hybrid seeds and fertilizer.
However, the cultivation of genetically engineered corn is still prohibited in the country.
According to a GAIN report by USDA, the government’s Farmer Input Support Program (FISP) program also contributed to the increased productivity of smallholder farmers.
This input support program was first introduced in 2001 as the Fertilizer Support Program, but was revised and renamed in 2009 to the FISP to reach more smallholder farmers.
The FISP supplies government subsidized seed and fertilizer to smallholder famers who typically produce more than 90 percent of Zambia’s total corn crop, to increase efficiencies and food security.
These efforts are in pursuit of ultimately producing in excess of 5.0 million tons of corn annually.
Corn consumption to rise
Corn being a staple in the country, provides about 60 percent of the caloric requirements of Zambia’s population of 18.4 million.
During the period under review, the country’s local corn consumption is set at about 1.8 million tons of corn for human consumption.
While, industrial requirements are estimated at about 130,000 tons, and corn for animal feed for the poultry and livestock industries is set at around 285,000 tons.
Thus, Zambia’s total domestic demand for corn in the 2021/22 MY is estimated at 2.4 million tons, factoring in a post-harvest loss of about 5% of production.
The consumption rate is 5% higher than the previous season but it is below the production rate, leaving excess supplies of corn available for exports to neighbouring countries.
Zambia shifts focus to DRC
However, the regional demand in Southern Africa for corn is weaker than usual as Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa also produced above average corn crops in the 2021/22 MY.
In fact, South Africa is expected to produce its second largest corn crop on record in 2021/22 of 16.8 million tons and should be able to increase corn exports by almost 40 percent to 3.5 million tons.
In addition, Zimbabwe is forecasted to produce the largest corn crop in 2021/22 since 1984 to reach 2.7 million tonnes.
The country announced in May 2021 that it stopped issuing import permits for corn and corn meal to local grain millers.
As a result, Zambia will have to explore new markets for its surplus corn. One such market is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
In 2019, Zambia signed a memorandum of understanding with the DRC to export 600,000 tons of corn to that country annually.
The agreement aims to deter informal trade flows and promote formalized corn exports to the DRC. Zambia could exploit this agreement in the 2021/22 MY to export surplus corn.
The Zambian government also announced that it will export 80,000 tons of corn through the World Food Program in the 2021/22 MY.
As a result, the report estimates that Zambia could export about 700,000 tons of its surplus corn in the 2021/22 MY.