Northwestern Province Minister Robert Lihefu says mealie meal supply has stabilized in the region following the successful containment of smuggling of the commodity to neighbouring countries.
Speaking to ZANIS in Solwezi, Mr Lihefu says smugglers compromised the supply of the commodity in the region as they used illegal routes to transport it to neighboring countries.
He disclosed that security wings moved in and identified all the illegal routes and closed them resulting in the stable supply of mealie meal throughout the region.
He has since warned that the government will not take kindly to anyone who will be found attempting to smuggle the commodity as it has the potential to compromise the nation’s food security.
And Mr. Lihefu also called on the Food Reserve Agency to ensure that it supplied maize to millers on time to avert any possible artificial mealie meal shortages in future.
Meanwhile, Chief Kasoma Lwela of the Ushi people of Chembe District in Luapula Province has commended the government for the quick intervention in curbing the smuggling of mealie meal into neighbouring countries.
Speaking to ZANIS in an interview today the Chief observed that smuggling has the potential to render communities vulnerable to hunger and poverty especially rural parts of the country whose economic exposure is limited by virtue of their geographical location.
“The habit of wanting quick money brings problems to our citizens, as traditional leaders, this gives us sleepless nights like it was a few weeks ago where some parts of the country experienced shortage of mealie meal while those that had exploited the residents with exorbitant prices,” he explained.
Chief Kasoma Lwela says his chiefdom is prone to such vices because it borders the Democratic Republic of Congo where there is high demand for mealie meal.
“The shortage of the staple food in the country gives sleepless nights especially to my chief which is neighboring DRC where we were told that a 25-Kilogram bag of mealie meal cost over K500,” he said.
“It is unfortunate that the border area is somehow porous, especially that people use the Luapula River to smuggle the commodity to the neighbouring country and therefore I would request the government to consider providing water transport for the security personnel in the district,” he further explained.
Chief Kasoma Lwela has since commended the Provincial Joint Operations Committee (PJOC) that recently visited Chembe District to conduct a sensitization to the residents on the importance of food security in the district.
He said he is happy that the uniformed men have tightened security in the areas that were used for smuggling as it has been evidenced by the few cases of people being caught with the commodity.
Chief Kasoma Lwela has since called on his subjects to desist from selling their farm produce to briefcase buyers as they continue harvesting saying they should wait for the government’s floor price so that they can earn enough income for their produce.
“Any person or household that shall be found selling their maize to briefcase buyers in my chiefdom shall have me to contend with because I want my chiefdom to be food secure so that we begin to graduate from the poverty stricken status to an economically sound chiefdom,” he said.
Chembe shares the whole of its western boundary with the Democratic Republic of Congo, the situation that makes it prone to smuggling.