Millers in the Copperbelt Province have said a steady supply of maize by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) will help to end mealie meal shortages and to stabilise prices of the commodity.
Speaking during a meeting with Copperbelt Minister Elisha Matambo in Ndola on Monday, Copperbelt millers representative Donald Kampamba described the shortage of mealie meal in the province as temporary.
Mr. Kampamba, the Manager of Jambo Milling, said insufficient access to FRA maize among millers has negatively affected mealie meal production on the Copperbelt.
He further saluted Mr. Matambo for engaging the millers in a bid to find solutions to mealie meal shortages and high prices of the commodity.
“We would like to continue processing our products, mealie meal and animal feed. I would also like to thank the minister for understating our concerns and for pledging to assist us in areas of need. I think this meeting should not be the end but engagements should continue so that we move on the same page. I can assure the nation that with the intervention of the Provincial Minister and his assurance of a sturdy supply of maize these temporary shortages of mealie meal will be a thing of the past very soon,” Mr. Kampamba said.
In his remarks when concluding the meeting, the Copperbelt Minister warned that a 25 kg bag of mealie meal should not cost more than K200 in the province.
“We also looked at why Copperbelt has higher prices of mealie meal compared to other provinces. First of all, I want to say that when I went out and others went out it came to our attention that we did not have a lot of mealie meal in these places. From now onwards after making maize available to the millers we expect millers to make mealie meal available throughout the province and I am sure economically if a mealie meal was available automatically we expect that the prices would be reasonable. I have also come to learn that almost all the millers are selling a 25 kg bag of mealie meal between K170 and K180 but I can say 70% of them are selling at K170. So I see no reason why the price of mealie meal in these other outlets can go up to K220, K230, K215. There is no way we are going to allow our people to be exploited. I am appealing to mealie meal dealers to be human enough and reduce the mealie meal prices. If you buy a mealie meal at 170, why should you sell it at K220? I am appealing to mealie meal dealers to be human enough and reduce the mealie meal so that it can suit the price at which they are buying from millers,” Mr. Matambo said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Matambo said he has set up a task force to ensure that mealie meal is available at affordable prices in the province.
He also promised that the Government will facilitate the availability of maize from the Food Reserve Agency that millers can access easily and closer to their plants.
“First of all, I want to tell the nation and the residents of the Copperbelt that the government of His Excellency President Hakainde Hichilema released 250, 000 metric tonnes of maize to the millers so that they can access this maize and also make available mealie meal on the market especially here on the Copperbelt. So I think after engaging millers we have agreed on several issues, first of all this office together with my team we will try to make sure that the maize which was offloaded by FRA is made available to the millers in a good time. I think the complaint has been that the maize has not been reaching them in good time and that the period at which the maize has been getting to the millers is somehow taking long. So we will try and make sure this office works hand in hand with the millers on the Copperbelt so that they get this maize in good time,” Mr. Matambo said.