22 November 2012

Zambia: Millers Accused of Hoarding Maize

THE Zambia National Farmers' Union (ZNFU) has accused millers of hoarding maize to create an artificial shortage of mealie-meal.

ZNFU Copperbelt regional coordinator Michael Zulu said the millers were hoarding maize which they had bought in bulk to "coerce" the Government to offload the grain at a cheaper price.

But Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) has parried the accusation as unfounded.

Mr Zulu insisted that the millers had created an artificial shortage in the hope that the Government would instruct the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to sell the maize at a reduced price.

He challenged MAZ to declare how much maize each miller had bought and the capacity to supply mealie meal to the nation.

"They are speculating for the usual subsidies. But the Minister of Agriculture (Emmanuel Chenda) has made it clear that there will be no cheap maize other than what is obtaining as the floor price.

"The FRA is supposed to be for strategic reserves and not to be selling cheap maize to the millers. It is incurring huge costs in keeping and transporting the maize and they want to get it cheaply," he said.

Mr Zulu said millers were also refusing to sell maize bran to livestock farmers in the country and alleged that there were trucks loading the bran in the night for export to neighbouring countries.

He said local farmers were being turned away by the millers who were claiming that they did not have the bran but trucks were seen loading tonnes of the commodity for sale on foreign markets.

But MAZ president Allan Sakala said millers were not hoarding any commodity or anticipating to buy maize at a cheaper rate.

Mr Sakala said it was the Grain Traders Association (GTA) and farmers who dictated the price at which they sold their maize.

He said it was unfair for ZNFU to accuse the millers of hoarding maize adding that it would not make economic sense for them to withhold the grain bought at a higher price.

"A lot of maize is being held by the GTA and the farmers. Let them give us their price for the maize and we will buy and supply the market with mealie meal. They are the ones who are waiting for a price that will suit them.

"The farmers should start releasing the maize to the millers instead of pointing accusing fingers at each other."

Copperbelt has been experiencing a shortage of mealie-meal, a situation which had triggered price increases.

Recently, Vice-President Guy Scott toured Kasumbalesa border post in Chilliabombwe where he witnessed some people ferrying mealie-meal across the border.

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