Sat, 17 Feb 2018 11:06:04 +0000

MILLERS and grain traders are causing unnecessary shocks in the market by creating an artificial shortage of maize leading to a rise in mealie meal prices.

They are causing panic among consumers, who form the larger part of the population, who fear that mealie meal prices will sky rocket.

This is unfortunate and unacceptable. The counter accusations from the two bodies involved in the trade war all point to one thing, that government needs to intervene.

Mealie meal prices have already shot up and indications are this could continue unless something is done to halt the artificial shortage of maize.

How this is handled, will set the tone of how mealie meal prices will be adjusted, either downwards or upwards.

Consumers would naturally hope that it is the former and not the latter. The cost of living is considerably high for many families that depend on maize as their staple food.

It has now emerged that the millers who have accused grain traders of hoarding their maize, are also to blame for not settling payments of what they have already been supplied with.

According to the Grain Traders Association, the millers are owing more than $400,000 for maize that they have already been supplied. The contention from the grain traders is why they should release more maize when the millers are not paying for what they have been given.

The right thing to do would be for the millers to stop pretending and blaming grain traders for hoarding their maize. They have a good reason for doing so.

We think that the two bodies need to find a common ground to ensure the consumer is not made a victim of their battle.

The millers need to realise that $400,000 is a lot of money which the grain traders need to sustain operations and pay wages of their employees. It is unfair therefore to withhold payment while benefiting from the maize that the grain traders are releasing.

The Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) is not justified in condemning grain traders for hoarding maize even if this has triggered a rise in mealie-meal prices.

By deliberately hoarding the maize, the move has sadly resulted in an artificial shortage of maize which in turn has caused the price of the stable food to soar.

Already, the action by the grain traders has seen a 25kg bag of breakfast mealie meal trade between K66 and K69 and K55 and K59 for roller meal respectively.

The truth of the matter is that the country has enough maize stocks in national reserves and in private hands.

Some brands have gone up by K1.50, which admittedly is minimal at the moment.

But should the traders continue hoarding the commodity longer, the mealie meal prices will not stabilise. If anything, the prices may escalate further beyond the reach of most citizens.

Food security in crucial in the development of any country, more so maize which is the staple food for millions of Zambians.

Yes, in a free market economy like ours, the laws of supply and demand play a crucial role in determining prices.

However, we believe there is nothing wrong for government to engage the traders and millers on the matter.

A win-win solution is exactly what the country needs just now and offloading maize on the market is the panacea to the whole problem.

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