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May 26, 2010

Zambia maize output up

Zambia's 2009/10 maize output rose by 42.1 percent to 2.7 million tonnes compared with last season's production, making it the highest crop harvest in about 22 years, Agriculture Minister Peter Daka said on May 22.

The country's maize harvest in the previous season was 1.9 million tonnes, Daka said.

Daka said Zambia, Africa's top copper producer, had a surplus of 1.1 million tonnes of maize, attributing the huge harvest to increases in the number of small-scale farmers that had been given subsidised seed and fertilizer by the government to produce food.

"The surplus maize must translate into lower (maize meal) prices. This will help in maintaining low inflation," Daka said in a statement.

The country plans to achieve 8.0 percent annual inflation in December. Food inflation usually contributes higher rates in the southern African country's consumer price index (CPI).

Zambia plans to export between 50,000-80,000 tonnes of maize this year but commercial farmers urged the immediate export of up to 178,000 tonnes of 2009 carry-over stocks to ensure better local prices for this season's crop.

Zambia has managed to turn its maize production around over the past three agricultural seasons, becoming a net exporter of maize on the back of good rains and a government policy to provide subsidies to farmers.

Reuters

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