GOVERNMENT should explain to Zambians why mealie meal prices in most parts of the country have remained at K150 for a 25 Kg bag when there is enough maize in the country to last up to the end of August, Hakainde Hichilema has demanded.
He said Government should ensure that Zambia remained food-secure and that the prices of mealie should be affordable to all citizens irrespective of their economic status.
Mr Hichilema who is the United Party for National Development (UPND) president said following assurances from Government that the country had enough maize stocks and having lifted the ban on the exportation of the grain, it would make economic sense for national leaders to prioritise value addition on the grain.
He explained that the UPND had always advised Government to start prioritising value addition to the maize the country was producing because it was the best way of creating employment for Zambians apart from strengthening the economy.
The UPND president said it was sad that the price of mealie meal in many parts of the country had remained higher than K100 for a 25Kg bag and that Government had the responsibility to explain to citizens the politics of the prices of the staple food.
Mr Hichilema said there was little doubt that the current prices of mealie meal were inflated considering that Government had made it clear that there was enough maize in the country.
He said food security was not just about producing enough food and stocking it but ensuring that it was equitably distributed to all areas across the country so that citizens could have easy access to it at an affordable price.
“If there was enough maize grain for exports, then value must be added by milling it and exporting actual mealie meal and other feedstocks, as opposed to the raw grain. With value-addition, we can earn more money and create indirect and direct jobs in the value chain from our millers to the traders in the market. This is what we want to encourage for all other locally produced products in the country,” Mr Hichilema said.
Mr Hichilema claimed that had been a lot of contradictory statements from Government officials on the stocks of maize in the country and the policy on exporting the grain.
He advised that conflicting statements from Government officials on the status of maize stocks in the country were creating anxieties among citizens and that traders were taking advantage of the inconsistences to engage unscrupulous export of the grain.
Mr Hichilema also wondered why there had been a shortage of mealie meal in the country over the past weeks which had caused the inflation of the prices.
Mr Hichilema advised that with the lifting of the moratorium on the export of maize, Government should ensure safe nets were put in place and security strengthened in borders to curb the smuggling and illegal exportation of the grain.