Shoprite Checkers overlooked the rules of origin in the importation of milk from Poland through South Africa, thereby benefiting from tax incentives of the Southern African Development Community.
Agriculture Minister Given Lubinda told Parliament yesterday that Shoprite Checkers was supposed to follow the rules of origin but that the firm disregarded import permit conditions when it imported the milk.
Mr Lubinda’s statement followed a point of order raised by UPND Mazabuka Central Member of Parliament Garry Nkombo who wanted to know whether Government was in order to allow the importation of milk from Poland.
Mr Nkombo’s point of order prompted Mr Lubinda to institute investigations which revealed that there was a scandal in the manner Shoprite was importing milk from Poland because the rule of origin was ignored.
“You may recall that during my response to question No 18 on 6th October, 2015, I stated that the ministry was going to investigate the matter and update this august House on the findings and action taken,” Mr Lubinda said.
He said it was established that the rules of origin were overlooked in the milk import permit conditions.
Overlooking the rule of origin which is part of the SADC protocol is a serious offence which can attract stern punitive actions.
But Mr Nkombo in a follow-up question, asked Mr Lubinda to tell the House which officers in his ministry was responsible for issuing the permit which Shoprite had been using to import milk from Poland.
In his response, Mr Lubinda said his officers only conducted investigations and submitted a report which did not indicate who among his officers had issued a fake permit to Shoprite.
Mr Lubinda however said that the issue of standards and procedure had since been resolved with Shoprite after investigations were successfully conducted.
“Issuance of milk imports to Shoprite Checkers have continued upon satisfaction of the rules of origin,” Mr Lubinda said.
Meanwhile, Mr Lubinda said Zambia was currently importing 12 million litres of long life milk to meet the milk deficit.
Mr Lubinda said the protein intake in Zambia was still very low because milk production was still inadequate and could not meet the country’s consumption.
He said according to the Dairy Association Zambia an average Zambia consumes less than 15 litres per year contrary to the international standard of 1 litre per day.
Mr Lubinda however said his ministry had taken several measures to safeguard and foster the growth of the dairy industry in the country, such as limiting milk imports and construction of milk collection centres.
He said the Ministry of Agriculture was currently training small holder dairy farmers in good dairy management and health practices and improving the genetics of the national dairy herd through artificial insemination and importation of quality dairy animals.
Mr Lubinda added that his ministry had also improved pasture and promotion of diary production in core ventures in the farming blocks as well as through matching grants.