STANBIC chief executive officer Charles Mudiwa says the current economic environment caused by amongst other factors, decreasing copper prices, reemphasizes the need and importance of investing in the agriculture sector to diversity the economy and enhances the production and exports of Zambia.

Speaking during this years Stanbic National Herd book Society Bull Sale in Lusaka,Mudiwa said Zambia has moved from being a net importer of commodities to a net exporter of maize, soya, sugar and during normal rainfall seasons, wheat to the region.

He observed that Zambia is edging closer to realizing its true potential to becoming the bread basket of the region. Mr. Mudiwa said that Stanbic is proud to be one of the largest financiers of Agribusiness in Zambia with investments in loans of over 1.5 billion ZMW across primary and secondary agriculture.

“We have dedicated relationship managers located in the main farming blocks across Zambia who support farmers plan and manage their farming operations and finances. The Livestock sector is an important agriculture subsector and is worth over $1.5 billion in Zambia. The sector has great potential with 42% of Zambia’s total landmass being suitable for livestock and 215 for rangeland grazing.

According to the department of veterinary statistics, the cattle population is approximately 4 million animals while Zambia has the potential to sustain a cattle population in excess of 13 million, “he said.

He further disclosed that the productivity levels for both beef and dairy cattle are low mainly due to limited access to agriculture extension veterinary services and high cost and availability of livestock feed adding that in February 2016, Stanbic Bank Zambia supported a strategic session to determine the important aspects that require investment in the sector in order to achieve long term benefits to the Country as a whole.

“This session identified key objectives that included private sector to grow the livestock sector from 4 to 10 million heads of cattle to provide protein and livelihoods to the Zambian households. We are therefore as Stanbic bank to be part of the herd book society national bull sale and support breeders and farmers aiming to improve the genetic stock of their cattle that will inevitably result in the improved performance levels of the Zambian cattle breeds, “He said.

A review of all the 10 provinces in Zambia shows that each has at least one major Agro activity currently being done at a small scale level. The challenge for the country is to identify and disproportionately focus on few but well selected Agro businesses be it a crop or livestock to drive and grow in each province upto production levels that result in satisfying national demand and reaching tangible export levels by our local Agro players. Once Agro exports earnings can cover even half our country’s import bill, these exchange rate instability will be curtailed.