Price controls imposed on maize meal must be reversed as a matter of urgency.
Bad public policy decisions must be reversed quickly to prevent unnecessary suffering of those affected. The decision to impose price control on maize meal in this day and age of liberalization is one such decision. Government inexplicably unilaterally intervened in the market to impose price control..
The full import of that decision can be seen in the shortage of maize meal that has hit the most vulnerable members of society.
It must be clear to Government by now that, the decision to impose controls was made without adequate consultation with all stakeholders and indeed without collecting all the necessary data and information.
It is equally surprising that the minister of Commerce Mr. Robert Sichinga could so singularly mislead the nation by suggesting that a lack of milling capacity was responsible for the current deficit.
The current predicament has its origin in the advice that the President was offered in December last years when he went public and warned millers of stern action unless they sold mealie meal below K50, 000.
The President could not have spoken from without. He must have been given the information that millers were exploiting the public, and naturally for a politician he took the cue and acted accordingly.
Speaking at the time the President said “The price of Mealie meal goes up uncontrollably and you are all just watching and I would like to warn the millers, we as a government, we can reintroduce price controls if they want to exploit the people in the villagers, the people in township they don’t work and you say Mealie meal can cost K80, 000. Any millers selling Mealie meal at 50,000 will have their licence hanging,”
Soon after the statement was made party cadres also took the cue and proceeded to make citizen arrests of shops and millers that sold maize meal above K50, 000.
Since then the chickens have come home to roost.
Millers were not prepared to engage in idle political polemics and chose instead to cut their losses and adjusted their operations, cutting out routes hence the current shortages which will not go away unless the underlying causes are dealt with.
The most serious underlying cause is the lack of dialogue between the Government and the key players in the agriculture sector namely, farming, grain marketing, storage and milling.
In the absence of dialogue and consultation the Government will continue to make decision which hurt and harm the general good at the expense of satisfying political interest.
While political decisions may generate immediate gratification the ramifications are long term.
Therefore time has come that the entire issue of maize farming, marketing and processing including export should be dealt with in an inclusive meeting where long term decision in the interest of all players will be undertaken.