The high demand for mealie meal and maize in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) and other East African countries has resulted in temporal shortages in some parts of northern Zambia, according to Cornelius Mweetwa, the spokesperson for the United Party for National Development (UPND). Mweetwa reported that smuggling levels have worsened on the Copperbelt, where the high price of maize in DR Congo has led to an increase in smuggling activity.
Mweetwa noted that the northern hemisphere had more than 800,000 metric tons of white maize, which should have been sufficient. However, the huge demand from East Africa and South Sudan led to traders buying up the maize from farmers, leading to a shortage. The UPND spokesperson said that the buying up of the commodity in Muchinga, in particular, prompted the government to move stocks from other parts of the country to cover up for the shortages in the north and the Copperbelt.
Mweetwa also highlighted that the demand for Zambian white maize is high in East Africa and DR Congo because it is non-GMO. He stated that the country’s strategic maize reserves were still secured with 375 thousand metric tons of maize, which is enough for the country to last until the next harvest season. With the 2022 – 2023 farming season harvest underway, he expects the food situation in reserves to drastically improve.
The Zambian government has put measures in place, such as the temporal suspension on the issuance of export permits until the commodity is stabilized. However, Mweetwa warned that a permanent ban on exports would affect the long-term export trade.
The temporal shortages of white maize in northern Zambia are due to the high demand for the commodity in East Africa and DR Congo. The government is taking measures to stabilize the commodity, and with the ongoing harvest season, experts expect the food situation in reserves to improve significantly.