Fuel shortages to cut maize production

Zambian maize production in 2009/10 is likely to drop from the 1.9 million tonnes produced in the previous crop season if acute shortages of fuel persist, Zambia National Union of Farmers (ZNFU) president Javis Zimba said on Sunday.

Zimba said in an interview that the union was very worried about the shortages, caused by the shutdown of Zambia’s sole refinery two weeks ago.

Energy minister Kenneth Konga told Reuters on Sunday the 24,000-barrels-per-day Indeni refinery would resume production on Friday.

Zimba said farming inputs such as seeds had not reached some parts of southern Zambia because transporters had no diesel and the delay could cause late planting and poor yields.

“Unless the government sorts out this problem of fuel as quickly as possible, maize production will drop. The rain is just about to start and we are very worried that some farmers have not received the inputs,” Zimba said.

Konga said the government had removed a 25 percent import duty on fuel and asked local Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) and the Independent Petroleum Group (IPG) of Kuwait to import a total of 50 million litres of diesel and 30 million litres of petrol.

Konga said that the government had also hired Kenya’s Dalbit Petroleum to import another 25 million litres of diesel and 15 million litres of diesel while Indeni was shut.

Zambia has managed to turn its maize production around over the past three farming seasons, becoming a net exporter of maize on the back of good rains and a government policy to provide subsidised fertiliser and seed to small-scale farmers.

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