LUSAKA, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- Zambia will likely see a decrease in the production of its staple crop maize in 2018 due to a number of challenges experienced, analysts told Xinhua on Tuesday.
Chance Kabaghe, executive director of the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (APRI), said the low maize price offered by the government last year, the outbreak of the fall armyworms, the late delivery of farming inputs under a government subsidized program and the dry spell being experienced in some parts of the country will have a negative bearing on maize production in the 2017/2018 season.
"This year, the major problem that we have is that we entered the year with very low prices of maize and farmers were demoralized to go into maize production," he said in an interview.
The situation, he said, has been exacerbated by a dry spell experienced in some provinces in the last three weeks, adding that this will affect production.
He has called for significant investment in irrigation farming, adding that depending on rain-fed agriculture was the thing of the past.
His organization, he said, has done a lot of research on how irrigation could boost agricultural production in the country in order to make the country a food basket of the southern African region.
Calvin Kaleyi, spokesperson of the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU), said the erratic rains experienced in some parts of the country have affected maize fields, with crops starting to wilt. "The situation is bad," he said.
Ministry of Agriculture Permanent Secretary Julius Shawa said farmers who will be affected by the poor weather pattern will be helped under a weather index insurance put in place.
"It is clear that the southern part of the country will not receive adequate rains and as government we have a program for insurance of crops during bad weather," he said.
Zambia has recorded bumper harvests of maize in recent seasons. During the 2016/2017 season, the country produced 2.8 million tons of maize.