THE high prices of mealie-meal are being caused by a constrained supply of the commodity to the market, according to the milling industry.
Last Wednesday, a check around several outlets in Lusaka revealed that the retail price of mealie-meal has been steadily rising ranging from K74.99 to as high as K100.00 for breakfast in some outlets in Chelstone, Woodlands, Northmead, Kabwata and Kalingalinga.
Most of these outlets recorded price increases from last December amidst complaints from traders of shortages being experienced in picking up the commodity at depots and delays in delivery of stocks, causing a jump in prices.
And outlets in Kasama have also hiked prices of the commodity to K125, from at least K110 per 25Kg bag, while prices of roller meal jumped to K95 from K75 for the same quantity.
In Solwezi, a 25kg bag is being sold at an average price of K120, while roller meal is hovering around K110 per bag.
But sources within the milling industry said the trend in rising prices nationally has been caused by inadequate supply of the commodity to the market.
“There isn’t adequate supply of the commodity. When millers are given the maize [from the Food Reserve Agency], the price escalation is not with the millers because there is a contract that is being signed whenever FRA supplies the maize. The problem comes in when a trader buys from a miller, these have no contracts with anyone,” the source said.
The sources explained that the inadequate supply of the commodity has come as a result of a shortage of maize being offloaded to some millers.
“There are complaints that they [millers] are not getting the appropriate quantities to meet their monthly production because the monthly requirements are 100,000 to 120,000 metric tonnes per month,” the source added.
On February 18, the Herald, Zimbabwe’s largest daily newspaper, reported that the Zimbabwean government has procured 615,000 tonnes of white maize from both the Zambian and Ukrainian governments to address the growing food shortages in that country.
Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa was quoted in the daily as having said that the Zambian government had allocated a further 115,000 tonnes of the maize for that country to purchase.
But agriculture minister Given Lubinda told journalists on February 21 that the Zambian government responded to requests from neighbouring countries on maize exports by directing them to the private sector.
“There were some governments that came and asked Zambia as a government to sell maize to them and our immediate reaction was ‘please buy from the private sector, not from the FRA.’ So, we did not allow the sale of maize from the FRA to outside countries; we allowed anyone who wanted to buy maize from outside to buy through traders in Zambia. The FRA is not exporting maize, they are not even allowed to sell to a trader who is exporting,” claimed Lubinda.
The national average price of a 25kg breakfast bag of mealie-meal jumped to K83.48 in February 2016 from K71.00 in February, 2015, while the same quantity of roller meal also spiked to K66.31 from K54.62 during the same period, according to the Central Statistical Office (CSO).