States agree on agriculture

LUSAKA - Regional initiatives in agriculture and dialogue on the factors and policies that influence agriculture were the subjects of a memorandum of understanding signed here recently between the Secretary General of The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), which represents 20 c

ountries, and the President of The Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU).

Areas of interest include: trade in agricultural commodities; small-holder farmer programmes; NEPAD’s CAADP priorities; and agricultural information and policy.

“We applaud the bold step taken by COMESA in formalising and recognising the objectives of this understanding, and feel it is vital in order to promote and achieve sustainable agriculture through good policies and trade,” said Ajay Vashee, President of SACAU.

Agriculture is the main stay of economies in COMESA Region, but during that last production season the region faced serious food shortages, resulting in 10 out of 20 member states requiring external food aid.

It is expected that following the agreements reached at the Hong Kong Meeting under the Doha Development Round, the agricultural sector in the region will be even more competitive as emerging opportunities brought about by the phase out of subsidies in the West become realised.

However, it is important to also realise that the sector faces challenges including the EUREGAP requirements by consumers, supermarkets and middlemen in the agricultural value chain. Other challenges include climatic changes and technology advances. These challenges require that governments in the region make the appropriate budgetary allocations for the sector, encourage adoption of improved technologies and seek to put in place a supportive policy environment for the sector. – Own Correspondent

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