GOVERNMENT has set aside 900,000 tonnes of maize through the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) for the domestic market, says Ministry of Agriculture permanent secretary Julius Shawa.

Appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Economic Affairs, Mr Shawa said out of that more than 700,000 metric tonnes of subsidized maize had been offloaded to millers by FRA to help stabilize mealie meal prices.

“The stocks we have at FRA are strictly meant for the domestic market; there is about 900,000 metric tonnes of maize sitting at the Food Reserve Agency and what has been allocated to millers is slightly above 700,000 tonnes,” he said.

Mr Shawa said most of that maize was still sitting in FRA storage sheds.

‘‘For exports the policy of open borders is still there and given the high demand of the commodity we can only appeal to the grain traders that there is a market, so why not offload the maize,” he said.

He also said Government was aware of cartels among mealie meal traders who were exploiting consumers by overpricing.

He said traders where only allowed to add a K5 on top of the K70 per bag of breakfast and K55 per bag of roller meal at  wholesale price.

This meant that traders must be selling 50 kg of roller meal at K60 and K75 per 50kg of breakfast meal.

Mr Shawa said Government advised millers to open more depots near consumers as a way of protecting consumers from being exploited.

He however said while other millers had opened depots in many parts of the country, this method had proved to be expensive for others.

“One way is to open more outlets; others have done so while others are saying it is expensive because traders are the ones exploiting consumers,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Shawa said Government has suspended a number of staff who were found wanting in the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP).

He said the FISP programme had proved effective and that any member of staff found wanting would be prosecuted.

Mr Shawa said the programme had proved to help in eradicating poverty in Zambia.

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