There is everything to worry about.
We are however gratified that the Acting President has moved decisively to bring some sanity to the situation.
Mr. Lungu must go further and stop the artificial shortage of maize meal generated by price controls which have raised prices in rural areas.
The maize management crisis is getting deeper by the day as all the major stakeholders appear totally ignorant of the steps that Government seems to be taking on maize management stock control.
All the relevant agencies including, Millers Association, Grain Traders, FRA and indeed the Farmers Union are all in the dark about the current Government maneuvers including the ban of exports.
This situation is totally unhealthy and untenable.
Maize is too important an issue to be left to the dictates of mandarins, hence the urgent need to involve stakeholders who are directly involved in the farming, marketing and storage of the commodity in order to formulate a policy that is informed by practical experience.
For the last one year, maize marketing has suffered varied fortunes as prices and marketing controversies have dogged the crop, with serious fears emerging of an impending shortage in the next season.
The biggest problem facing the market is the lack of certitude with regard top the current stocks in the country and the impact of Government decision to limit exports. TE Grain Traders Association of Zambia (GTTA) has, as expected, opposed the Government decision to ban exports.
They are very concerned because Government intervention in the local market has meant that millers are accessing subsidized maize thereby wiping out the viable demand that would absorb the “market” priced maize.
Infact Government had allowed exports in response to the prevailing dynamics where subsidized maize was being availed to millers who were now being forced to sell maize meal at a controlled price.
Few if any millers therefore would risk buying maize at the going market price because they would not be able to recover the cost given the fact of the new controlled mealie meal prices, pegged at K55,000 per 25kg bag at the millers gate.
Although millers are reported to have accepted this new price, transporters are concerned that there is no margin provided to ensure that the mealie meal reaches the border areas at a reasonable price.
The problem therefore concerns the price at which maize is bought and sold, how much it costs to meal and finally how much it costs to transport it around the country. These are issues which the farmers, traders and millers are struggling with in the middle of Government intervention which appears oblivious to the market influences.
Whereas the Government may indeed have the last word. This will be done at a severe cost either to the farmer or indeed consumer- all of who have little influence over the factors that determine the final prices.
The consumer in Solwezi has no choice but buy the maize meal at K110,000. He has absolutely no control or influence. Similarly rthe farmer has to accept the floor price set by Government regardless of the final cost at which he must produce.
Between the farmer and the consumer stands a Government which is seemingly insensitive to the various influences.
This makes it imperative that all the major players in the maize industry must come together and find an amicable settlement that will encourage productivity while providing affordable foods to the consumer.
This is a tall order, which is attainable but will require dialogue.