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Mealie-meal supply to improve

by Staff reporter
22 Jan 2020 at 06:31hrs | Views
THE supply of mealie-meal is expected to improve starting next week as all millers are being registered under Government's subsidy programme while mechanisms to import maize using free-funds have been put in place.

Grain Millers' Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) chairman Mr Tafadzwa Musarara said this during a Press conference held at a Bulawayo hotel yesterday.

In October last year, the Government announced that it had amended indefinitely Statutory Instrument (SI) 122 of 2017 to allow companies and individuals with offshore and free funds to import specified basic commodities that are in short supply due to the speculative behaviour of local retailers and panic-buying by consumers.

Last December, the Government also announced that all licenced millers would buy subsidised maize from the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) at $4 000 per tonne. However, following the implementation of the subsidy programme, concerns were raised by the milling industry that only eight out of the 108 licensed millers across the country had been registered under the programme.

As a result, the commmodity was being produced by a few millers thereby prompting unscrupulous dealers to take advantage of the huge demand by diverting it to the black market where it was being sold at prices ranging between $70 and $90 per 10kg pack, against the gazetted $50.

"The subsidy programme started on a rocky note, but we would like to advise that everything has been resolved, all millers are either registered or are in the process of registering.

"With the maize meal imports that we will start to receive next week, the situation God willing, should stabilise in the next three to five weeks, but supplies will start to be noticed as from next week," Mr Musarara said.

Following Government's recent decision to allow millers and other players to bring in maize into the country using free-funds, GMAZ has since then put in place the necessary mechanism to facilitate the process.

"The country's current demand for commercial use is 80 000 tonnes per month and we have signed up close to 100 000 tonnes per month with 50 000 tonnes starting to come early next week . . . we are making contingent plans to have the grain coming.  

"This private sector initiative is going to complement Government's efforts to ensure food security at household level," Mr Musarara said.

He said GMAZ was worried with the extent of the quantum of subsidised mealie-meal on the black market especially in Bulawayo.

"The product can leak either at the millers' place or retailers place, then of course, we are now having professional buyers (people who go and queue every day and buy the mealie), we believe that the best way to kill the black market is flooding the formal market."

As part of their broader scope to destroy the parallel market, millers, wholesalers and retailers have agreed that no milling company will sell directly to consumers but through the wholesalers and retailers. He said GMAZ was also working with security organs who are assisting them in escorting maize from the border up to the mills until the situation stabilises.  

Speaking at the same occasion, Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) president Mr Denford Mutashu said: "We have met to discuss issues of mealie-meal supply across the country and we have been informed by the grain millers' association that the supply of maize meal is improving and basically it should take us about two to three weeks to begin to normalise the situation with respect to the supply of roller meal."

With regards to the side marketing of subsidised mealie-meal, he said they have come up with a joint-monitoring programme where the millers will distribute the product through the normal chain.

"It is going to be delivered to the retailer or wholesaler. The price also has got to be maintained.  

"So far on roller meal, I think you are aware that a 10 kilogramme bag is being sold at $50 but again it's a process of re-engagement with the Government.

"And the millers must also play ball especially given that the operating environment has not been static.

"For example, the fuel has just gone up, fuel is very paramount and is a key factor especially in the delivery of maize meal to the greater part of the country especially the rural areas.  

"Our indication, thereof, is that the price has got to be reviewed time and again so that its realistic and also accommodates the other extra cost associated with running a business," he said.

The CZR president said they have also received reports of side-marketing of mealie-meal by a few selected players in the retail sector.

"We have also received reports from the Bulawayo United Residents' Association about a few selected players in our sector that are also side-marketing the product.  

"It is our view that we will improve communication between ourselves as the sector association and the consumers so that we receive timeous reports on such side marketing activities so that we act upon them," he said.

Working with other agencies, GMAZ has unleashed monitors to track the movement and sale of subsided mealie-meal as concerns grow over the continued channelling of the commodity to the black market.

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Source - chronicle