The millers have a point.
It is pointless to boast about having a liberalised economy when the key economic players are not given leeway to go about their business.
But this is what happens when every business transaction is looked at through political lenses when everyone is branded a crook.
Thus the government would do itself a lot of good if it listened to the genuine complaints that the Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) have raised.
MAZ president Andrew Chintala has called on the government to relax inter-district procedures of moving maize in view of the ongoing crop marketing season.
Mr Chintala says the rigidities in the new procedures of moving stock are suffocating millers.
“Obviously as the market has officially been opened, we would like to urge Government to relax the stock movement, movement of maize from production areas in terms of primary production areas into towns where we are producing or adding value.
“The new procedure of moving grain and mealie-meal is suffocating us. It is something that needs to be addressed…we need to relax the movement of maize and mealie-meal inland and restrict these movements in border towns.
Since millers are expected to enter the maize market and buy their needs from farmers, they need to be free to move what they buy to their factories.
As small-scale farmers who make up the bulk of maize growers are scattered throughout the country – in rural areas – millers must ensure they get there to buy what they need.
However, it becomes a problem when they are viewed with suspicion and in most cases subjected to tedious scrutiny on suspicion that their consignment is earmarked for smuggling.
This is a teething problem particularly for those operating in border areas like the North-Western Province with the huge Congo market beckoning.
Hence Mr Chintala’s concern on “why we should restrict maize moving from Chongwe to Lusaka and maize from Kabwe to Lusaka or either from Mumbwa to Lusaka.”
He expressed concern that millers were facing challenges to transport their maize grain from the districts to the milling plants.
The Food Reserve Agency has already told milling companies that they must go out in the field and place their orders from the farmers instead of depending on it.
The advice from FRA came in the wake of milling companies wanting to buy maize from the agency which is mandated to look after the country’s food reserves. It becomes a problem however when government bureaucracy comes in, wanting to oversee every transaction.
It must respect millers as serious business entities which have invested a lot in their operations by giving them room to breathe.