MEALIE meal prices are still high for a common Zambian to afford, says UPND president Hakainde Hichilema.
In an interview, Mr. Hichilema said steps taken by Government to reduce the wholesale prices of mealie meal by K4 without addressing the causes of high mealie meal prices would not help to maintain the prices of the commodity low. He said although the gesture was welcome, Government should go further and look at the root causes of high prices of mealie meal in the country and address them.
Mr. Hichilema said it was disturbing that despite Zambian farmers producing maize for consumption and selling, the price of the commodity was too high and unaffordable.
“The K4 reduction will have no proper effect on to the poor Zambians whose main staple food value is nshima. Zambians were failing to buy a 25Kg bag of mealie meal when the price was at K50 before it was increased to K65. So even this reduction will have no meaning to the Zambians who are failing to buy because most of them are unemployed and if employed are getting little salaries or slave wages,” said Mr. Hichilema.
He said Government should look at a lasting solutions to the high prices of mealie meal rather than firefighting for solutions.
Mr. Hichilema observed that Government should consider making farming as a profitable business entity with a readily available market not only for maize but also for all other farm produce.
“It is sad that we still import cucumber and water melon from South Africa when we grow our own here in Zambia. This is what Government should promote as a serious way of diversification. Let them give certain incentives to farmers who promote the growth of other crops. This can be done by Government revising the policy to buy out all their produce and this will reduce prices of mealie because people will not depend on mealie meal alone but other farm produce,” said Mr. Hichilema.
On Friday, Agriculture and Livestock Minister Given Lubinda announced a reduction in mealie meal prices with the wholesale price of a 25kg bag of breakfast now to be sold at K61 from K65 while a 25 kg bag of roller meal would now cost K44 from K52.
Mr Lubinda said the reduction of mealie meal prices follows consultations with relevant stakeholders among them the Millers Association of Zambia.