ORDINARY Zimbabweans have dismissed calls by the country's farmers' groups for a blanket ban on maize imports which they claim was aimed at protecting an inefficient local industry.
Poor Zimbabweans feel that competition being brought by the imported products has ensured prices of the staple food remained affordable to everyone.
The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union and the Commercial Farmers Union this past week petitioned the Ministry of Finance to order a ban on maize and mealie imports.
Local farmers argued that competition brought by the imports has deprived them the opportunity of selling their produce at their preferred $340 as opposed to the current $220 per tonne.
"We sincerely believe that our joint paper signed today provides the requisite solutions to protect and promote all players in the maize value chain. The players are farmers, millers, traders and consumers," read the petition.
"If these measures are implemented, prices of maize meal will remain stable and uptake of local maize will increase, sales for seeds and other inputs will jump and as farmers, we will be able to prepare adequately for the next farming season."
But Zimbabweans who spoke to NewZimbabwe.com insisted decisions of such public interest must never be left to the whims of a few individuals.
Progress Wesa of Harare's Kuwadzana area said millers are just few individuals who want to exploit the Zimbabwean consumers.
"If the local product (mealie meal) is good and the price is affordable, the South African companies would not be sending any of their products here so why ban them," he said.
"They should look at how the Buy Zimbabwe Campaign is failing to gain ground here; prices and quality determines what I buy not who is producing," added Saneliso Ncube.
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) executive director, Rosemary Siyachitema, said they supported the commercial farmers' calls for as long prices will not be hiked.
"If the prices of locally produced mealie meal and other goods remain as they are and help to push our monthly basket down and that there is guarantee that prices of the same product will go a little bit down next harvesting season, then that will be good news to Zimbabwean consumers some of whom are battling to put a meal on the table," she said.
The CCZ boss said that they were given assurances by the millers and farmers representatives that this could happen as there were good chances that Zimbabwe would receive good rainfall and inputs in time and farmers will produce a bumper harvest.
Zimbabwe's neighbours have recorded bumper harvests. Zambia has an excess of a million tonnes of maize, Malawi with 0.6 million tonnes while South Africa has a staggering 3.8 million tonnes.
What this means is that Zimbabwe, which has perennially been experiencing a grain deficit, now becomes the only market for Malawi, Zambia and South Africa.