GOVERNMENT has with immediate effect terminated maize supply contracts for four milling companies allegedly involved in the recent attempt to smuggle maize through Mwami border post in Eastern Province to Malawi.
And Government has seized 840 metric tonnes of maize which was about to be smuggled to Malawi without export permits.
Agriculture minister Given Lubinda told a press briefing in Lusaka yesterday that 28 trucks were impounded at the border laden with maize grain heading for Malawi without export permits.
Mr Lubinda explained that the termination of the maize supply contracts with the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) also meant that the culprits would not be allowed to buy maize from the agency.
He said the four milling companies would have nothing to do with FRA for the next two farming seasons.
Last week, the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) impounded 28 trucks, laden with maize and maize products, which were intended for export through Mwami border.
Meanwhile, Mr Lubinda assured the country that there was no need to panic as the country had enough maize for consumption up to August 2016.
“With the commencement of the FRA maize sales programme, an ad hoc price monitoring committee was set up to monitor the sale and prices of maize and mealie meal for millers participating in the programme,” Mr Lubinda said.
He said following the continuous monitoring of the performance and compliance of the millers with the terms of these contracts, it had been observed that some millers had breached the contracts after being caught smuggling maize grain.
“The Government through the Food Reserve Agency has, therefore, terminated contracts for one miller in Lusaka, two millers in Central Province and one miller in Northern Province. These millers have had their contracts terminated and as per contract, shall be blacklisted for two consecutive seasons from dealing with the FRA,” Mr Lubinda said.
He said there were price spikes observed in maize and maize meal during the month of November 2015.
Mr Lubinda said in an effort to mitigate against the development, Government decided to sell 930,000 metric tonnes of Food Reserve Agency maize to millers in Zambia between November and June, 2016.
“This was in response to millers’ cries that they had run out of stock and the available stock on the market was very expensive,” he said. Mr Lubinda said the objective of the FRA maize sales programme was to ensure that millers had enough stock to last for six months (up to the next harvest) and curb the shortage of mealie meal on local markets and also help to stabilize prices, making it affordable to consumers countrywide.
He said a total of 750,368 metric tonnes had been allocated to 101 millers across the country under the contracts which run up to June 2016.
Mr Lubinda said as at 4th March, 2016, 441.204.57 metric tonnes had already been paid for and millers were collecting.
“Further, 3,887 was sold out as community sales, 13,493 was sold to DMMU, 1,444 to Ministry of Education for the school feeding programme, 881 as debt swap and 2,379 metric tonnes was sold as under-grade maize, giving a total of 465,406 metric tonnes.
‘‘The stock balance from the quantity held by FRA that is uncommitted stands at 209, 618 metric tonnes while 309,163 is committed to millers,” he said.
He said in addition, the Grain Traders Association of Zambia was holding a total of 227,245 metric tonnes, Zambia National Farmers Union had 46,050 metric tonnes and Millers Association of Zambia have 29,420 metric tonnes.
Mr Lubinda said the country had 821,496 metric tonnes of maize as at 4th march 2016 while the FRA alone had 518,781 metric tonnes of both committed and uncommitted stocks of maize.
“The available stocks less the quantity committed for export by the Grain Traders Association of Zambia leaves a balance of 594,251 metric tonnes available for domestic consumption which is sufficient to last until August 2016,” he said.