Lusaka: Eastern and Southern Africa member states have been urged to remove trade barriers in staple food as this distorts price stability and retards growth in the agricultural sector. Africa Agricultural Programme (AAMP) senior co-ordinator Jones Govereh said the trade barriers have contributed to the soaring global food prices due to lack of back-up in export and import parity which forms the floor and ceiling prices, respectively.
DrGovereh told delegates attending the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) regional conference here to update the media on ACTESA programmes and need for collaboration. He said Governments in ESA region should open boundaries to avoid producers’ prices crashing and protect the interests of smallholder farmers.
Dr Govereh said this when he presented a paper on understanding the impacts of trade, price and marketing policy decisions on domestic and regional markets at the on-going ACTESA meeting.
'Individual national markets are very small to attract meaningful investment. We have to go beyond our borders to improve our competitiveness and share risks associated with trade. Global prices for staple foods are unstable because of the current political boundary which is hurting not only consumers but farmers and the regional economic growth,' he said.
He also presented latest studies that show Zambia’s comparisons on two scenarios’ impact on the prices when in a bumper harvest and drought situation. The report indicates that when production increases by 30 percent due to a bumper harvest, the price crashes by 50 percent in a closed market while in an open trade it only reduces by 26 percent.
In a drought scenario, the effects are about 163 percent when there is a barrier compared to 36 when there are no export bans.
He said ACTESA, a specialised agency of Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, is advocating for free flow of staple foods in ESA using the appropriate channels if the region has to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of eradicating poverty. He said export bans are a detriment to food security and agriculture growth hence the need for member states to invest in infrastructure to ease transportation of commodities and provide links within the market.
Dr Govereh said governments should not continue to meddle in food pricing although they have a bigger role to play in the market.