PARAMOUNT Chief Mpezeni of the Ngoni speaking people in Eastern Province has bemoaned the continued smuggling of maize by unscrupulous traders in the province, stating that if the scourge continued his people may starve.
And the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) has impounded 30 trucks laden with maize worth US$ 270,000 at Mwami border post in Chipata.
He said when he made an impromptu visit to Mwami border post yesterday that the continued smuggling of maize by unscrupulous traders into Malawi was worrying.
“Some Indians are also involved in the smuggling of maize and they have to be stopped as I fear that my people may starve,” he said.
And Minister of Agriculture Given Lubinda yesterday inspected 30 impounded trucks laden with thousands of tons of maize at Mwami border post.
Mr Lubinda said Government would have lost 840 metric tonnes of maize worth the export value of U$270,000 if the ZRA officers had not been alert.
He directed that the impounded trucks must not be allowed either to move into Malawi or Zambia without the express authority from the Ministry of Agriculture or the Eatern Province provincial permanent secretary Chanda Kasolo.
“The impounded trucks will not move either into Malawi or Zambia without the express authority from us or the permanent secretary, if the maize is to go back to Zambia then relevant authorities must ensure that it is traced to where it will be offloaded so that it does not suddenly grow legs,” he said.
Mr Lubinda said that government does not intend to impose a total ban on the export of maize or indeed any product as he is aware of the adverse effect that can have on the economy and that government prioritises the welfare of consumers over the export profits.
He observed that borders are porous but that if officers continue to be vigilant then the government and consumers would be advantaged.
“The 840 metric tonnes of maize sounds like a small number but it is not, if it were not for the vigilant officers at Mwami border government would have lost U$270,000 dollars in revenue collection and consumers would have suffered.
“I hope that it is not an isolated incident but this is how you operate, if you continue to be vigilant government and consumers will be assisted,” he said.
Mr Lubinda said although the incident had negative connotation, it was an indicated that Zambia was positioned to be a great exporter of maize and other agricultural products in the COMESA and SADC region.
He said the demand for maize and other agricultural products such as beef, chickens and cereals would not decline but that it was only bound to increase and that farmers have to seize this opportunity to invest more in the agriculture production.
The minister queried a warehouse called Mwami Discount Store that had over 1000 bags of mealie meal and for selling a 25 kilogramme bag of maize at K 110 .
He wondered how traders were bypassing Katete, Petauke and Chipata not minding incurring transport costs and only interested to sell their produce at Mwami border.