Government has shut down operations of a maize exporting company in Chipata on suspicion that it is exporting government subsidised Food Reserve Agency (FRA) maize to neighbouring countries.
Chipata District Commissioner, Kalunga Zulu, who yesterday led the taskforce against the smuggling of maize and maize products, found over 1800 metric tonnes of maize allegedly being re-bagged at Afgri
storage shed in the district’s industrial area.
ZANIS reports that Mr Zulu found stacks of FRA-branded maize bags, some of which were empty, and some brand-new World Food Programme (WFP)-branded bags, leading to suspicions that FRA maize was being placed into WFP bags and that the company was planning to illegally export the grain.
“This maize is being packed into these brand new WFP-bags as you can see. It is also clear that these FRA bags have been opened by people in this shed because they are not damaged. One cannot claim that
these bags were damaged,” he said.
Mr Zulu observed that Afgri is an exporting company and that FRA maize is not meant for exports but is subsidised by government for local consumption, saying Afgri does not have any contract with FRA but
has been buying FRA maize from a company called Comuga which is on the list of millers that have contracts with the agency.
The DC noted that suspicions have been raised as to how the FRA maize was found at the premises that exports the grain when it is strictly for local consumption.
Mr Zulu stated that when he initially inspected the storage shed, the company manager, Victor Banda, only declared 1300 metric tonnes of maize but was shocked to find over 1800 bags.
He wondered why Mr Banda did not declare about 500 metric tonnes to the taskforce.
He also observed that Afgri has been selling maize to Zambia Breweries for the brewing of opaque beer yet FRA maize is strictly for the grinding of maize for mealie meal.
Mr Zulu expressed concern that despite government making efforts to curb the vice, the district has continued to record increased smuggling of maize and maize products due to the porosity of the
border and dubious business entities that diverted FRA maize to exports.
But Afgri Chipata Manager, Victor Banda, denied the allegation of re-bagging the grain into WFP bags, saying workers were restacking the maize to avoid spillage.
Mr Banda, however, disclosed that Afgri has been selling some of the maize to Zambia Breweries though government subsidised maize under the FRA for grinding of mealie meal.
Meanwhile, Zambia Breweries Chipata Branch Team Leader, Sydney Musonda, confirmed that his company was being supplied maize by Afgri for brewing of Chibuku.