Your Excellency the President of the Republic of Zambia,
The Secretary General of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa,
Your Excellencies High Commissioners and Ambassadors accredited to the Republic of Zambia,
Your Excellencies Ambassadors and Special Representatives Accredited to COMESA,
Head of Agriculture at NEPAD,
President of IFAP,
CEO of SACAU,
The President of the Farmers ZNFU,
The Chief Executive of the ZNFU,
Leaders of the Farming and Commodity Trading Community from within the COMESA Region and beyond,
Colleagues from the COMESA Secretariat, the African Agricultural Markets Programme the AAMP), including our team member from Washington DC who is here with us,
All partners of the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa,
All leaders of the private sector here present,
All protocols observed,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
The agricultural sector plays a critical role in the economies of COMESA member States. It is indeed the engine for economic growth in the region as it accounts for more than 20-50 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of countries in our region, provides a livelihood to about 80 per cent of its labor force, accounts for about significant levels of foreign exchange earnings while contributing on average about 50 per cent of raw materials to the regional industrial sector.
Indeed even here in Zambia, where exports have been dominated by the minerals sector, over 70% of the population derives a livelihood from agriculture and nontraditional agricultural exports are growing, and clearly the future of the country is in the agricultural sector.
It is because of this significance of the agricultural sector that we at the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA), did not hesitate to partner in ensuring a successful hosting of this 104th ZNFU Congress. We believe this collaboration with farmers at the country level is something we can replicate throughout our region and thus allow more dialogue between the farming community and policy makers.
1. Challenges in Agriculture:
While the importance of agriculture in the COMESA region cannot be overemphasized, the sector’s competitiveness is dogged by many challenges.
Ø Over-dependence on rain-fed agriculture
Ø Under-funding of the sector among other competing national and regional priorities
Ø Low agricultural input use, particularly fertilisers
Ø Constraints in availability and access to high quality seed
Ø Low labor productivity due to low adoption of available appropriate technologies
Ø High marketing costs due to poor infrastructure
Ø Poor availability of market information
Ø Subsidies provided by Western countries to their farmers
Ø Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) requirements in international and regional markets, and their lack of harmonization
Ø Dynamic market standards and requirements
Ø Pests and diseases
Ø Under-developed agro-processing markets and the high cost of finance.
2. Market Access as a key challenge / ACTESA:
Research indicates that of all the factors constraining agricultural productivity and overall growth of the agricultural sector, access to profitable markets is perhaps the most important. On account of this lack of markets concern, that the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) was launched on September 24 2008 by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)’s Ministers of agriculture.
ACTESA was subsequently endorsed by the historic COMESA Heads of State Summit at Victoria Falls Town, Zimbabwe in June this year as Specialized Agency of COMESA to work on integrating small farmers in national, regional and international markets
ACTESA brings together existing and new activities on markets development and food security in the region under an institutional framework. The main goal of ACTESA is to increase farmer productivity and incomes in the COMESA region through trade, mainly in staple crops
The objectives of ACTESA are to
(i) Improve competitiveness and integration of staple foods markets in COMESA member States through improved micro and macroeconomic policies as the drivers of staple food markets;
(ii) Improve and expand market facilities and services for staple foods’ commercialization;
(iii) Increase commercial integration of staple foods’ producers into national and regional markets.
3. Commodity Focus of ACTESA:
Following the excellent analytical work we have undertaken under the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), the targeted commodities for ACTESA to expand market opportunities for producers in our region include:
Grains and pulses, such as maize and common beans Roots and Tubers, such as cassava and sweet potatoes Oilseeds, such as groundnuts, soyabeans and sunflowers Livestock, of which COMESA has the largest population in Africa Forest and Natural Resource products such as honey, Horticultural products, such as green vegetables and fruits Tree Crops such as coffee Agricultural Inputs, including seeds and fertilizers.
4. The African Agricultural Markets Programme:
Included in ACTESA is the African Agricultural Markets Programme (AAMP), which COMESA is implementing with the support of our cooperating partners, specifically DfID and the World Bank. The AAMP aims to enhance regional capacity, policy dialogue, and coordination on agricultural inputs and food staples markets through a series of policy seminars, training, and analytical work. The programme currently covers both COMESA member States and those neighbouring them,
including Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. The policy and training series will cover agricultural inputs, production, trade and marketing, and risk management.
A particular focus of AAMP is on food staples, which remain by far the most important traded commodities in the region and with significant impact on people’s incomes and food and nutrition security.
5. Partners in ACTESA:
As an Alliance, ACTESA works with Development Agencies, Private Foundations, UN agencies, the Private Sector, Non Governmental Organizations, Farmer Organizations and all Member States to achieve its objectives.
Research has shown that agricultural productivity is a function of market access. It is this regard the action taken this year by Government of the Republic of Zambia to remove the Crop Levy is laudable as it reduces a key constraint in crop movement and marketing in Zambia. We also further applaud the creation of the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development that will provide greater focus on the country’s important livestock and fish resources.
Among the key areas, ACTESA will focus on in Zambia is to work with the WFP to expand the Local Purchase Programme under the WFP’s Purchase for Progress initiative. We note that over the last few years, notable quantities of agricultural commodities have been procured by the WFP for supply to needy beneficiaries in locally and within the region. We will work to significantly expand these purchases, particularly given the excellent production performance by Zambian farmers this past production season.
We are also aware of the focus by Zambian stakeholders to work to conclude its CAADP Compact. Once completed, the Compact will provide key directions with regard to the areas of agricultural development priority and with the highest impact on poverty reduction and growth. ACTESA will partner the Republic of Zambia to invest in all the market expansion areas that the CAADP compact will identify.
7. AGRO-PROCESSING AND HIGH VALUE MARKETS:
Among the key market areas of focus are value added markets. We note that data available from UNIDO points to the fact in the developed World, over 98% of all primary agricultural products are sold to agro processing facilities. In our region, only 30% of our agro products are sold to processing facilities. Accordingly, some 30% of all cereals produced and up to 50% of all fruits produced are wasted. ACTESA will work to expand agro-processing facilities throughout the COMESA region in order to capture the full value of our production and expand employment opportunities for the population.
Going forward, ACTESA will work with key regional analytical entities such as FANRPAN and ASARECA as well farmer organizations such as EAFF, SACAU, AGRA, EAGC to continuously refocus the areas of priority for ACTESA within the markets expansion, including promoting of irrigation, hastening agro-processing and supporting contract farming.
8. FOCUSING ON RESULTS:
Overall, ACTESA will work to ensure we get results in increasing:
ü The Number of Producers/Associations Supported (Commodity Focus)
ü Number of firms supported
ü Number of PPP forged
ü Number of Policy reforms/procedures passed
ü Percentage change in intra regional trade (Commodities)
ü Increase in purchases from smallholders
ü Increase in the percentage of our agricultural products that are processed
In seeking to achieve our target results, we will promote ongoing partnership with ZNFU, other local farmer organizations throughout the region and the umbrella regional farmer organizations including SACAU and the EAFF.
In conclusion, I would like to thank all the partners who helped in the design of ACTESA and are providing support to COMESA for start up activities of the Agency. These include USAID, DfiD, AGRA, WFP, EC, AusAID and the World Bank.
I thank you all.