Our millers have absolutely no justification for hiking the price of maize mealy by up to 20 percent
No calculation will support any empirical justification or lack of it because maize meal is a direct product of maize that has been produced from the last season in which the floor price announced by Government was K75 per 50kg bag.
The fact that traders are now offering farmers K97.50 per 50kg bag does not represent an increase in the cost of production. It simply means that some other people identified a niche and opportunity which our millers have abused in the past.
No doubt farmers are more than gratified to receive almost K20 higher than the floor price which is to their advantage and benefit.
The justification that the (scramble) for maize has increased prices does not make any sense because it does not tally with maize availability as has been enunciated by many political leaders especially the opposition who have been crying for a market for the maize still with peasants in their constituencies.
If there’s any means therefore it must be with the farmers who must be reached by the buyer, thereby presenting the ideal scenario of the market as envisaged by the Government.
The problem really is that our millers have become so used to buying subsidized maize that is stored within the urban areas they have little or no experience of traversing Zambia’s varied terrain to reach farmers in Chama, Mufumbwe and other distant places which are still stocking ample supplies of maize which they can buy at government floor price from which maize meal at regular prices can be produced.
It is all a matter of strategy, planning and logistics.
The fact that load shedding may interrupt production cannot translate into an immediate price hike. Fixed costs may indeed be a challenge which most millers are grappling with but these cannot translate into a 20 percent increase in the price of mealie meal.
The millers must come up with a better reason for wanting to increase prices.
We are not happy that Government is being drawn into this matter, which should ideally be controlled by market forces which, however, seem to be failing in these circumstances.
Our appeal is that instead of millers increasing and Government countermanding there should be dialogue to arrive at more amicable arrangement that takes into account all variable realistically and without any intention to exploit or intimidate because at the end of the day millers and Government are partners with the same constituency, the consumers.
Any policy must arise from dialogue because this assures consistency, integrity and above all fairness to all the parties involved, namely peasant farmers as producers, grain marketers as intermediaries, millers as manufacturers and finally politicians as the overseers of a functional marketing system.
A sound system will benefit all because it will be equitable.