By BUUMBA CHIMBULU
MILLERS are facing the real risk of shutting down their milling plants and operations save for the expensive maize bought from the domestic market while is offloading cheap maize to the Zambia National Service (ZNS) and the Zambia Correctional Services (ZCS) for the production of cheaper mealie meal, Andrew Chintala has said.
Government’s decision not to consider commercial millers for subsidized maize to create a level playing field has angered their association, the Zambia Association of Millers (ZAM) as its members are stuck with the same commodity as a result of the subsided maize to two Government institutions.
Recently, the government awarded a contract to Dariyaye Milling Plant through ZCS to sell cheap mealie meal in Lusaka and the exercise was flagged off by Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Jack Mwiimbu, who at the time said the government was determined to address and mitigate the exorbitant cost of mealie meal prices.
But Mr Chintala, the Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) president, in an interview yesterday revealed that millers could have easily shut down had they not secured the expensive maize from the domestic market.
Mr Chintala said the criteria government used to consider ZNS and ZCS was only to respond to what it felt was an intervention in stabilizing the prices of mealie meal on the market, but hastened to state that what millers were asking for was a level playing field for commercial milling companies.
Mr Chintala said his association was unhappy that its members were currently stuck with maize bought at a high price from the domestic market at the request of Government in order to secure the commodity and keep it domestically.
He complained that millers were sitting on expensive maize has had a serious knock because the subsidised interventions government was implementing were only restricted to the Zambia Correctional Services and Zambia National Service who were accessing cheaper maize.
Mr Chintala complained that it was unfair for Government to only consider the two players without engaging other commercial millers sitting on huge stalks of the grain, which was procured at a high cost.
He expressed deep concern that the same Government that had encouraged millers to go into the market and procure enough grain seemed to have turned against commercial millers by not considering them for subsidised grain.
“With these interventions, clearly you expect an impact because our colleagues, millers under the Government such as Zambia Correctional Services and Zambia National Service, are accessing cheaper maize and are offloading cheaper mealie meal on the market which creates some distortions.”
“What would have happened if we did not buy the maize, millers would have been shutting down by now because they were not going to have maize but we heeded to Government to go out and buy… and the same Government that told us to do that should not be seen to be working against the policy of millers to be dependent on their grain,” Mr Chintala said.
Mr Chintala elucidated that the only way millers could have kept the maize on the domestic market was to pay for whatever the commodity was fetching at following the high demand from the region.
He, however, indicated that there were talks between millers and Government over the matter and was hopeful of a positive outcome such as introducing fair mechanisms.
Mr Chintala is hopeful that modalities will be put in place soon before the actual demand of maize kicks in around December and January.
“We have some modalities in place already so I think from the last discussions we have been having with government…there is what we call price blending mechanism where you bring in the expensive maize and get the cheaper maize, put it together and get an average cost which should be able to achieve Government’s intension to reduce mealie meal,” Mr Chintala said.