With vast tracts of fertile land, excellent rainfall and large rivers, Zambia has the potential to become the breadbasket of Africa, with agriculture as a major export industry. Food processing in turn can add value to farm produce, and utilise surplus fresh produce which might otherwise go to waste. But currently food processing as a commercial activity is in its infancy here.
Food processing in Zambia
Most people use the term 'food processing' to refer to the production of packaged foods. And safety is a major concern because packaged food can be easily contaminated causing widespread illness.
But technically any transformation of raw ingredients into a new product is a form of food processing. These activities can range from cooking, canning, drying, freezing, grilling, smoking, pasteurising and liquefaction, to pickling and fermentation. They also include the adding of ingredients to food in order to extend shelf life, enhance the flavour and/or add colour.
Traditional Zambian food processing includes the smoking of fish, the drying of vegetables and mushrooms, and the fermenting of maize and other cereals to make different beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, such as kachasu and chibwantu.
In rural areas of Zambia, people can enjoy the health benefits of eating 'fresh from the field'. But in urban areas it is not really possible to avoid processed foods.
By preventing the growth of bacteria, fungi and microorganisms, a food preservation process will stop, or slow down, spoilage of food, loss of food quality, and edibility of food.
Why is food processed?
Food processing has certain objectives, including:
Without food processing, a percentage of fresh agricultural produce will spoil between harvest and consumption. This may be due to inadequate storage facilities, which allow micro-organisms or pests to contaminate or destroy the stored food. To mitigate this, companies have been set up to manufacture and supply a variety of processed foods in Zambia.
At Infobwana, we have profiled a good number of manufacturers and distributors of processed food in this section of our website.