The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe expects to produce more than 500 000 tonnes of maize through contract farming in the 2014/15 agricultural season following the success of the association's pilot project last season.In the 2013/14 agricultural season, the millers contracted farmers to produce about 100 000 tonnes of maize following a strategic plan to promote maize production locally.
GMAZ president Mr Tafadzwa Musarara told The Herald Business that the association will be buying maize at prices between $300-$340 per tonne. Mr Musarara said the prices being offered by the millers are higher than those obtaining in the region with South Africa and Zambia offering about $200 and $240 per tonne respectively.
"We are still computing the exact tonnage we want to produce through the programme but so far we are at 500 000 tonnes. We will know the exact tonnage after the computation process," said Mr Musarara.
He was speaking on the sidelines of the Nestle and Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries forum on Creating Shared Value.
He urged Government to suspend maize meal imports to allow millers to mop up as much maize as possible from local farmers.
Mr Musarara said Zimbabwe is the biggest target market for regional maize producers with South Africa holding an excess of 2 million tonnes, Zambia 1,2 million and Malawi about 800 000 tonnes of maize which could potentially be destined for Zimbabwe.
Mr Musarara said millers were concerned about the unfair competition arising from the pricing and health requirements for locally produced and imported mealie meal.
Millers are expected to comply with local health and food processing standards, requirements that are not extended to imported maize meal.
Mr Musarara said Zimbabwe should avoid importing maize meal since it cannot supervise its production process whether it meets health regulations standards.
There are four products which Government wants fortified in order to achieve a 96 percent product penetration, maize meal producers are required to add iron to maize meal, flower, sugar and cooking oil, which requires heavy mechanisation to ensure compliance.
Fortification increases the nutrient density in foods. The World Food Programme says that in Zimbabwe under nutrition is highly prevalent, infants, young children aged 6-24 months, pregnant and breastfeeding women are the most affected.
The need to fortify food, according to Mr Musarara, posed a challenge to local producers who are facing liquidity challenges currently affecting the economy.
"We would like to comply with the fortification requirement but our challenge is the issue of mechanisation. We need proper equipment to meet the required standards. It's an enforcement that will start next year," said Mr Musarara.