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Zambia wants to import farmers

Zambia will award farmland to foreign investors in 2009 to improve agricultural production and curb food shortages, the country’s finance minister says.

Situmbeko Musokotwane said the mineral-rich country would grant foreign and local investors land in farm blocs for them to grow more white maize for export to countries in southern Africa.

Speaking at a meeting convened to familiarize with farmers’ operations, Musokotwane said agriculture provided the best alternative to diversifying the economy away from copper mining, the country’s economic lifeblood.

Zambia created two major farm blocs last year, each over 100,000 hectares in size.

The blocs would be split up for foreign and local farmers to grow cash crops, but the rollout of the project has been hindered by delays in putting up infrastructure on the sites.

Agriculture industry officials said last week the country would import up to 100,000 tonnes of maize to plug a deficit expected in the first quarter of 2009, after the government lifted a ban on imports of maize.

“In the past few years, Zambia achieved considerable success in food security, but now we want to go beyond food security to exporting,” Musokotwane said.

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