Thursday 2018-08-16

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MAIZE IMPORT RESTRICTION NOT GOOD DURING DROUGHT PERIODS

By Majaha Nkonyane | 2018-02-15

SWAZILAND Economic Policy Analysis and Research Centre (SEPARC) Research Fellow Mangaliso Mohammed has questioned the National Maize Corporation’s (NMC’s) monopoly rights when the country is faced with drought situation.

“Would it have hurt the country to temporarily flex NMC’s monopoly rights by allowing some private traders to import maize into the country to meet the shortage of maize during the drought? The temporal adjustment of the agricultural marketing instruments would not negate the phytosanitary requirements of the maize coming into the country since it would still go through the same process to guard against pests and pathogens,” he said in a study

“The validity of import tariffs and import quotas on staple food (maize) when the country declares a state of emergency”.

The study shows that the country remains vulnerable to droughts, and a choice has to be made for subsequent scenarios in future to keep food import restrictions and risk households going hungry, or temporarily lift all tariff and quota restrictions and ensure affordable access to food and zero hunger.

In addition as with most sustainable development policies, the choice is not as clear cut as one would think. Border restrictions on food imports have an important role to play in protecting local food industries but the ability to ensure availability, access, and affordability to nutritious food is just as important when the nation is thrown into a humanitarian crisis in the event of catastrophic natural disaster.

After all, the first priority of development policy as evidenced by the National Development Strategy (NDS), the Poverty Reduction Strategy and Action Plan (PRSAP), and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1, 2, and 3 is to keep people alive, free from hunger, and in good health and well-being.

“In essence, the food self-sufficiency objective becomes less important when there is a looming hunger crisis. Chronic drought-like conditions in the country are discouraging households from food production such that slight increases in the cost of food have a huge effect on food insecurity at the household level,” he said.

Mohammed also mentioned that droughts are increasingly becoming a recurrent threat to achieving and maintaining SDG 2 of Zero Hunger within Swaziland’s boundaries.

Government has the obligation to revisit all instruments meant to regulate food imports during disasters and capacitate the agricultural marketing boards on their role during such state of emergencies in the country.

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