AGRICULTURE and Livestock Minister Emmanuel Chenda does not understand why some parts of the country are facing mealie meal shortages when there is adequate maize in stock locally.
Reacting to the reported critical mealie meal shortages in Kasama and Solwezi, Mr Chenda said in an interview in Lusaka yesterday that he would today meet millers so that they could explain why they were creating the artificial shortage of the commodity when the nation had adequate stocks.
"Government, through the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) offloaded maize to millers and currently we have 700,000 tonnes of maize with FRA, so why should there be a shortage? Where is the mealie meal going," he said.
Mr Chenda observed that initially millers had been arguing that they were hiking mealie meal prices because of the shortage of maize, but that the excuse could not arise now as the market was flooded with maize.
He disclosed that his ministry would soon publish in the media the quantities of maize supplied to the millers through the FRA for the nation to know that the mealie meal shortage was not justifiable.
He charged that the reported artificial shortage was due to greed on the part of either millers or agents as they were allegedly exporting the commodity to the Great Lakes region from Kasama and to neighbouring countries through Solwezi.
"We will be having a meeting with the millers tomorrow (today). They must first satisfy the local demand. Our appeal to the millers has always been that our priority should be Zambia then the rest should follow," Mr Chenda said.
He said the continued exportation of maize from Zambia to other countries was an indication that there was an emerging maize market in the region hence the need for the country to get 'ourselves fired up' by producing more for local consumption and export.
On the fertiliser distribution exercise, Mr Chenda said 90 per cent of basal and top dressing fertiliser had been distributed to the farmers so far.
He sympathised with the farmers for the delay and assured them that his ministry had been pushing the suppliers to complete the distribution process by next week.
"We are pressing the suppliers to conclude the issue because we are running out of time. We are hoping that the distribution exercise will be concluded by the second week of February," he said.