8 January 2013

Zambia: Millers to Reduce Mealie-Meal Prices

THE Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) has pledged to reduce prices of mealie meal further throughout the country with immediate effect and will continue dialogue with the Government to address some outstanding issues concerning the staple food.

After holding talks with President Sata and other senior Government officials in Lusaka yesterday, millers agreed to reduce mealie-meal prices throughout the country.

Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) president Allan Sakala said in an interview yesterday that, millers would peg the wholesale price of a 25 kilogramme bag of breakfast to K47,000 (KR 47) and retail will be K50,000 (KR50) with immediate effect throughout the country.

The wholesale price for a 25 kilogramme bag of roller meal will be K35, 000 (KR 35), while retail is K38, 000 (KR 38) with immediate effect.

"We have resolved to reduce mealie-meal prices which in the recent past varied to a uniform pricing format. The wholesale price for a 25 kilogramme bag of breakfast mealie-meal will be K47, 000 (KR 47) and the retail price is now K50, 000 (KR 50) with immediate effect," Mr Sakala said.

Sakala said his organisation was looking forward to continued talks with Government on a number of pressing issues which needed to be resolved in order to ensure that there was smooth implementation of the reduced prices.

"As millers, we are still engaging Government on a number of pressing issues which still remain unresolved despite the decision to reduce mealie-meal prices. The most pressing one among the issues still unresolved is agreeing on how Government will intervene to reduce the cost of transport being incurred by millers to distribute the commodity to rural depots," he said.

Mr Sakala said MAZ would continue accessing subsidised maize from FRA to make sure that there were sufficient stocks of mealie-meal and that, the prices remained stable.

Millers throughout the country are expecting to receive this month's consignment of 112 000 tonnes of maize from the Food Reserve Agency.

Mealie-meal prices in the country are traditionally high during the first quarter of the year which coincides with the maize planting season.

An on-the-spot check by the Times of Zambia in Kitwe, Ndola and Lusaka in markets and in established outlets such as Shoprite, Spar and other chain stores yesterday, revealed that a 25 kilogramme bag of mealie-meal was fetching as high as K58, 000 (KR 58) and the similar package of roller was costing K51, 000 (KR 51).

Some milling companies' depots in Ndola and Kitwe yesterday temporarily halted the sale of mealie-meal to both retail and wholesale customers.

By Press time, mealie-meal had continued trading at an average price of between K65, 000(KR 65) and (KR60) on the black market.

The FRA moved into the market using an ambitious initiative code named Operation Flood the Market to fulfill its mandate to stabilise staple food prices by offloading grains from the strategic food reserves and selling it at subsidised prices of K60,000 (KR60) to the public which was below the official Government recommended maize floor price of K65,000( KR65).

Some interest groups such as the Zambia Consumers Association (ZACA) have accused millers and mealie-meal traders of deliberately manipulataing the market to create a conducive environment for drastic price hikes of the country's stable food.

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