Think Carefully Before Instituting Ban on Importation: Jesuit Scholars to Zambia’s Leaders

JCTR Executive Director, Fr. Alex Muyebe. Credit: JCTR

Officials of the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) have called on the Zambian government to study the effects of a ban on imports to the Southern African nation before instituting such a move.

On February 22, Zambia’s Ministry of Agriculture banned the importation of potatoes and onions after members of the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) raised concerns about the flooding of the products in the market.

In a statement dated Monday, February 28, JCTR officials say while bans on imports are important in protecting the interest of local businesses, “such interventions require detailed consideration and that safeguards for all anticipated fall outs are put in place to ensure local demand can still be met.”

“As local farmers demand for importation bans on the basis that foreign imports make their produce go to waste, there is a need for them to demonstrate that they have a capacity to meet local demand of particular commodities,” JCTR officials say. 

Officials of the Zambia-based research institute say a repeat of last years’ experience where the government lifted the ban on importation of onions and potatoes   after two months “must be avoided.” 


The February 2021 ban on the importation of onions and potatoes was lifted in April 2021 after locally grown onions were unable to meet national demand.

In the February 28 statement, the Jesuit scholars say last year's scarcity of onions was responsible for the K132.19 (USD 7) increase in the cost of living, which was recorded in their Basic Needs and Nutrition Basket (BNNB) report for March 2021.

The BNNB report is a JCTR monthly tabulation of the country’s cost of living.  

They add that the price of onions did not stabilize immediately after the importation ban was lifted in April 2021. 

In the statement titled, “Importation Bans Must Be Well Thought Out”, JCTR officials say it is “imperative that any intervention being adopted must protect the availability and affordability of key consumption items at the household level to promote human dignity.”

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In view of Zambia's past experience on importation bans, JCTR officials say the government needs to seek solutions that maintain prices of basic essential items within the capacity of many ordinary households.

To regulate the cost of basic items, JCTR officials say the government will have to put in place “measures to keep the cost of production low and to ensure constant supply and availability of basic essential items both in the short run and in the long run.”

They add that the capacity of Zambian farmers to produce enough onions to meet the growing demand needs to be enhanced. 

“Zambia has over the years continued being a net importer of commodities that can readily be produced locally. There is, however, need to address the quality, reliability and adequacy of local farmer supplies and also explore and strategize on how they will tap into markets beyond Zambia,” JCTR officials say. 

The Jesuit scholars further say there is need for the Zambian government to enhance a multisectoral approach to create a balance between imports and locally produced goods.


Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.