Some senior PF members that helped the party during campaigns are responsible for the current maize and meal mealie shortages being experienced in certain parts of the country, coupled with poor PF agricultural policies.
And the PF compromised Post newspaper today confirmed the Watchdog story that mealie-meal in some parts of the Copperbelt worsened by midday yesterday.
According today’s Post newspaper, serious shortages were recorded in Kitwe’s town centre, Buchi, Chmwemwe, Chachacha, and Ndeke townships.
A check revealed that depots for major millers such as Olympic, Antelope, and Mpongwe milling within town centre ran out of the commodity by 12:00 hrs yesterday and were only supplying flour which was readily available.
In Chisokone area, there was a serious commotion at various depots as some traders had taken advantage of the situation and created a black market with inflated prices.
But sources in the PF government have disclosed that one of the first acts of the ruling party was to give some cadres that were not absorbed in full-time jobs, contracts to export maize to neighboring countries like Malawi, DRC and Kenya as a way of rewarding them for campaigns.
Sources said, the PF was under the impression that there were enough maize stocks being kept by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) around the country and needed to clear the storages for the new harvest that was only estimated to be bumper harvest even before correct figures were determined.
As a result, FRA was forced to release what was thought to be excess maize to the PF cadres for export but the activity was over-done hence the current shortages, sources said.
What made things worse is that the maize shortage was also created by the chaotic maize marketing that saw farmers sell to brief-case businessmen who were paying good money instantly and taking the staple food for export.
Millers were also not interested in entering the maize purchasing due to the political directive by the PF government to lower the price of meal mealie against market forces something that made it no longer economical.
According to sources, the PF directive to lower meal mealie prices was merely political rather than economical just like the ban on using foreign currency that was meant to strengthen the free-falling Kwacha against other currencies.
Sources in the agriculture marketing chain have said that the situation is likely worsen because some farmers held on to their maize due to poor prices and erratic payments from FRA.
Even worse, the next planting season is also likely to see a huge reduction in maize planting due to poor in-put distribution, poor prices, and poor whether conditions that have so far seen farmers lose a substantial maize planting time due to lack of rains.
Sources said farmers are likely to concentrate on other crops such as tobacco, soya beans, cotton and others that can’t be eaten but are economically viable thereby creating a huge deficit in the staple food that may result in government to start importing maize again.
The PF government were more interested in pleasing their cadres with maize exporting contracts rather than strategically storing the commodity for future use in case of poor weather conditions, as the situation currently obtains.
Some parts of the country, especially the PF stronghold of Copperbelt region have so far experienced sky-rocketing increase in prices of essential commodities with mealie meal prices rising from K40,000 per 25KG of breakfast to current K70,000 due to maize shortages in the country.
Farmers in various parts of the country have also not been paid their money forcing some of them to threaten to withdraw the maize they supplied to FRA.
The delayed payments have also led to poor planning by most farmers for the next farming season.
Sources said if the current situation continues, the PF government maybe forced to use the much talked about recently acquired Euro-bond credit in temporarily stabilising the economy through importation of maize grain for consumption to avoid political unrest rather than investing in infrastructure for long term benefits.
Importation of maize and other key commodities may also put a further strain on the falling Kwacha and rise in inflation.