Amid the prevailing economic challenges, ordinary Zambians are finding it difficult to raise money to buy a 25-kilogram bag of mealie meal which is the national staple food.
Rising mealie meal prices can have a devastating effect on the health of poor households by making it more difficult for them to have proper meals.
Indeed, the skyrocketing price of mealie meal has led to families going to bed on empty stomachs. In some cases, those who are lucky are able to manage one meal a day.
It is ironical that a country that has been recording bumper harvests year in, year out should find itself in a situation where some of its citizens are unable to afford mealie meal.
It is therefore commendable that Government is intending to give incentives to millers in the country to cushion the current high cost of production which has led to the increase in the price of mealie meal.
Government and millers are holding talks to arrive at incentives that will enable the country see reduction in the cost of mealie meal locally which has been on an upward trajectory recently, to ensure that citizens have access to the product as its cost was getting out of the reach of many.
Minister of Agriculture Reuben Phiri said Government has already allowed millers to buy maize from the Food Reserve Agency and to export with a condition that this should help reduce the cost of mealie meal locally.
Mr Phiri said the ministry is currently talking to millers and other stakeholders on possible incentives for cheaper mealie meal especially for the domestic market.
He said Government is concerned with the ever-increasing price of mealie meal despite the country having surplus maize.
Government is quite aware that a scarcity of mealie meal due to exorbitant prices is a recipe for civil strife in the country.
We are glad that apart from engaging millers, Government has also invested heavily in the establishment of milling plants in various parts of the country in partnership with the Zambia National Service.
In recent months, the ZNS-operated milling plants in Monze and Mpika have been commissioned and this is a sure guarantee that the mealie meal they would be producing would be far cheaper than that from private-owned millers.
Our hope is that the ZNS-operated milling plants and private milling firms will work with the government to ensure that the consumer is the ultimate winner in the final analysis.
Affordable mealie meal on the market will result in a healthy nation and ultimately high productivity.
Another positive would be the improved health of children as there would be enough food for them at household level.
It is obvious that there are children who go to school hungry because their parents or guardians cannot buy enough mealie meal. This quite clearly affects their performance at school.
As Mr Phiri said, it is sad that mealie meal prices are ever increasing which should not be the case, and has assured that Government will ensure that mealie meal become affordable for everyone.
No Zambian should go bed hungry.