Vice president Guy Scott has accused millers of blackmail in view of the shortage of mealie meal that has hit the Copperbelt.
Dr Scott during the vice president’s question time in response to a question by Mafinga Member of Parliament, Catherine Namugala who wanted to find out government’s position on the mealie meal shortage, said millers ignored the advice given to them to buy maize for themselves on the open market up until the end of December when the FRA would supply them with maize in the second half.
Ms Namugala told the House that mealie-meal prices on the Copperbelt had gone as higher as K75, 000 making it difficult for the locals to purchase the commodity.
Dr Scott said that the millers thought they were clever and left the Food Reserve Agency to buy all the maize as has previously has been the case in the past with all the corruption and maize wastage involved.
He says unfortunately the millers’ blackmail seems to have some effect into forcing government into directing FRA to release maize earlier than planned in order to bring down mealie meal prices down.
The Vice president disclosed that the situation has further been compounded by the mechanical outage at Mpongwe milling which has been down for seven days.
“Mpongwe milling has be down for past seven days which has aggravated the situation because it is the largest milling and supplier of mealie-meal on the Copperbelt, but by next week the situation will normalise, “he said
Dr Scott also said South Africa had stopped supplying the commodity to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a situation which had caused severe demand of mealie-meal from Zambia into DRC.
The Vice President has assured that the escalating prices and shortages of mealie meal on the Copperbelt will normalise by next week.
The Vice President said Agriculture and Cooperative Minister Emmanuel Chenda would next week issue a comprehensive statement on various issues such as mealie-meal shortages.
And United Party for National Development (UPND) Nangoma MP Boyd Hamusonde wondered why there had slow distribution of the farming inputs under Fertiliser Input Support Programme (FISP). In his response, Dr Scott said Government inherited a system that was full of corruption.
He said the Patriotic Front (PF) Government found FISP marred with high corrupt practises and that it was cleaning up FISP distribution exercise.
Dr Scott said the Government would promote transparency and accountability in the manner farming inputs were managed for the benefits of several Zambians farmers.