The Zambia Must Prosper Party (ZMP) has raised concerns over the recent queues of citizens waiting to buy a bag of mealie meal produced by the Zambia National Service (ZNS). The ZMP has described this practice as unacceptable and a clear indication of the UPND government’s failure to deliver on its promises to Zambians.
In a statement released by the party’s spokesperson, Trymore Mwenda, he expressed disappointment at the high cost of the ZNS produced mealie meal despite the long queues of citizens waiting to purchase it. “The UPND government must know that even the ZNS produced mealie meal is still very expensive, despite Zambians queuing up for it,” Mwenda said. “Offloading 1600 bags of the ZNS mealie meal per day on the market pegged at K150 and K120 for breakfast and roller meal respectively will not do much because this is not what the UPND promised Zambians.”
Mwenda went on to describe the scenes in Lusaka’s Kaunda square on Friday last week, where residents queued up for ZNS mealie meal, as unsustainable and a drop in the ocean. He called on the UPND government to address the factors that have triggered the steep rise in mealie meal prices if a long-term solution is to be found. “The scenes in Lusaka’s Kaunda square are unacceptable and do not reflect the level of progress Zambia has made since the return of multi-party politics more than 30 years ago,” Mwenda said.
Despite the concerns raised by the ZMP, the cost of maize meal in Zambia is expected to go down in the coming weeks following the government’s decision to release maize from its strategic grain reserves to millers. Millers are expected to receive about 250,000 metric tonnes from the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to enable them to produce mealie meal in bulk and flood the local market so that consumers can purchase the commodity at affordable prices.
“The millers have agreed to price the commodity at between K160 (US$8.4) and K170 (US$8.9) per 25-kilogram bag from K300 (US$15.7) in a forward step to ensure that the commodity is sold at affordable prices for Zambian citizens,” said Kelvin Hambwezya, the Chairperson of the FRA Board.
However, some milling companies have been hesitant to quickly buy maize from the FRA and have claimed that there is a shortage of grain in the country. In response, Hambwezya thanked the millers for their cooperation and expressed hope that the price of mealie meal would continue to decrease with further interactions. “FRA is aware of the fluctuating mealie meal prices in the country, and the agency has responded with interventions aimed at normalizing the situation,” Hambwezya said. “FRA was created to make sure that when there is a crisis or a disaster like we seem to have, FRA is mandated to offload maize or rice or whatever commodity is required to help mitigate the problem,” he added.
So far, the millers have paid for 75,000 metric tonnes of maize, and have been instructed to collect it from the nearest FRA depots. The FRA has also sold maize to 33 districts under the rural vulnerable communities to ensure household food security. Additionally, the agency has authorized the release of 50,000 metric tonnes of maize to the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit for relief purposes for households affected by floods.
The ZMP has called on the UPND government to address the factors that have led to the steep rise in mealie meal