ACTESA urged to encourage farmers to merchanise their activities

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Government has urged the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) to take up a leading role in encouraging farmers in the region to use innovative methods such as mechanised farming.

And ACTESA has officially launched the harmonised cross border trade monitoring manual which will help the regional body and its partners to monitor informal trade between countries in the region.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives Rodgers Mwewa said profitable farming required the use of modern equipment.

Mr. Mwewa said the potential of the agriculture sector to meet the increasing demand for food depends on productivity and access to the market which he said all countries should be aware of.

He said this when he launched a harmonised cross border trade monitoring manual in Lusaka today at the southern Africa grain stakeholders’ forum organised by the ACTESA in conjunction with Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) and other partners.

He noted that there were more than one million poor people in the world majority of whom live in rural areas and depends on farming.

He explained that to this effect, the use of modern farming methods of inevitable in order to promote domestic food security.

Mr. Mwewa has since commended ACTESA for its role in the agriculture sector in the region and further urged it to work closely with farmers in order to help in effectively moving products from areas of surplus to areas of deficit.

Delegates from all COMESA member states are in attendance at the forum which is expected to launch a harmonised COMESA regional food balance sheet and further discuss the prospects and framework for establishing a southern Africa grain sector network and talk about the regional food security among other important issues in the agricultural sector.

And COMESA Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya hailed the critical role that agriculture plays in the national economies of the COMESA member countries.

Mr. Ngwenya said in a speech read for him by the ACTESA Chief Executive Officer Argent Chuula, that the role which the agriculture sector plays was an engine for economic development in COMESA region.

He disclosed that agriculture accounts for more than 32 per cent of COMESA’s gross domestic product (GDP) and provides a livelihood to about 80 percent of the regions labour force.

He added that agriculture alone accounts for 65 per cent of foreign exchange earnings and contributes more than 50 per cent of raw material to the industrial sector.

Mr. Ngwenya has since called on member states to raise the competitiveness of the regional agricultural sector by putting up initiatives that were in line with COMESA agricultural thrust.

The COMESA agricultural thrust stresses the importance of cooperation and coordination of regional agricultural policies.

Meanwhile EAGC Executive Director Gerald Masila explained that the harmonised manual will allow for the recording of informal trade data which had been going on unrecorded for a long time.

Mr. Masila said the recording of the data will enable countries to know how much they were losing through smuggling.

He said all trades between and among countries were well recorded but informal trade, which is popularly known as smuggling, left countries without data as to how much amount of commodities had entered or left the country.

He pointed out that smuggling has created a shortage of commodities in some countries.