Zambia Faces Food Security Crisis as Corn Production Drops

Zambia is currently facing a food security crisis as the production of its staple crop, corn, is expected to drop by more than 50 percent in the upcoming marketing year 2024/25. This significant decrease is attributed to extended dry spells caused by the El Niño event, which has led to the destruction of almost a million hectares of corn in the country.

In response to this dire situation, the Zambian President has declared a “National Disaster and Emergency,” highlighting the severity of the issue. It is estimated that Zambia will need to import approximately 1 million metric tons of corn in the coming year to meet local demand and maintain strategic food reserves.

Despite the current prohibition on cultivating genetically engineered corn in Zambia, the government has authorized the private sector to import corn, with the condition that it must be free of genetically modified organisms. This decision opens the door for imports from neighboring countries, such as Tanzania, while excluding major corn producers like South Africa, where the majority of corn is genetically engineered.

The reliance on rainfall for corn production in Zambia has put smallholder farmers at a disadvantage, as they have limited access to irrigation technologies. The country’s efforts to revise its biosafety policy may pave the way for a more science-based approach to biotechnology, potentially changing the current restrictive environment.

In conclusion, the looming food security crisis in Zambia underscores the importance of addressing the challenges faced by the agricultural sector. With the prospect of importing a substantial amount of corn to offset the production shortfall, the country must also focus on long-term strategies to enhance its agricultural resilience and ensure food security for its population.