Zambia’s President Lungu has said it is scandalous for Zambia to import fresh fish and has called for a stop to the trend, saying that Zambians are capable of producing sufficient stocks for home consumption and export.
He also disclosed that Government has secured $50 million from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to enable Zambians to venture into fish farming entrepreneurial projects.
Zambia currently has an approximated 20 million hectares of land under water. The country is, however, importing an estimated 45 metric tonnes of fish annually.
Mr Lungu was speaking in Chongwe’s Palabana recently after touring Palabana Fisheries, an aquaculture private company specialised in fingerling production and supply of dragging nets.
“I think this is an eye-opener for me. Zambia should stop the trend of importing fish. There is abundant water and we can utilise the labour.
“We can go back to where we belong and export fish around the region so we can reverse this in three years’ time and be able to export even to China because it is criminal to imagine that we are importing tilapia from China when the fish is indigenous to Zambia,” he said.
President Lungu said Northern and Luapula provinces have abundant waters which can be restocked.
“I am given to understand that the Chinese, at the time they were constructing the Tanzania-Zambia Railways rail line, picked some fingerlings from Zambia and started breeding them and they have expanded to a point where they are exporting back to Zambia, and where were the Zambians?” Mr Lungu asked.
Mr Lungu said that the money acquired from the African Development Bank would also be used in the fish restocking programme, to implement the initiative in rural parts of the country.
Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Given Lubinda, said Government is working towards developing aquaculture farms and parks to reverse the “scandal” of importing fish within one and half years.
He told journalists that areas where aquaculture parks will be established have already been identified.
“The intention is to bring fish farmers together to operate as co-operatives because we have to try and pool resources together because if farmers do it individually, the cost becomes high but if we pool resources, then extension service provision also becomes more economical,” he said.
Mr Lubinda is happy that some farmers have formed an association called Aquaculture Association of Zambia, which is in constant dialogue with Government, and that incentives will be considered.
He said they, however, have a challenge of scarcity of fish feed, which most millers do not produce.
Palabana Fisheries director Sammy Williey said he was overjoyed by President Lungu’s visit and thanked the head of state for touring the fish project. He added that the visit will help stimulate and further promote fish farming in the country.