The Grain Traders Association of Zambia (GTAZ) have agreed to put 245 000 ton of maize on the market, ending a standoff between the traders and government. The offloading of maize would start immediately and continue until May, said Chambuleni Simwinga, GTAZ’s executive director.
“We must be responsible, and we have decided to act in the best interest of the general public over the rising prices of mealie-meal,” said Simwinga.
‘…we have decided to act in the best interest of the general public’
The move is expected to reduce the price of mealie meal from ZMW130 for 25kg to ZMW85.
Speaking in Lusaka at the weekend, Dora Siliya, the minister of agriculture, said that a three-way agreement between the ministry, the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) and the grain traders had made the price reduction possible. The government had agreed to give grain traders a 20% non-monetary subsidy, Siliya said.
“We negotiated for a lower price that would enable the FRA to buy maize from the GTAZ at ZMK2 650 per ton and sell it on to the millers for ZMK2 200 per ton. This translates to a commodity-based subsidy of 20% to the grain traders,” said Siliya. The minister said she expected mealie meal prices to hold around the ZMK85 for a 25kg bag.
Grain traders and the government were deadlocked last week as Siliya accused the traders of running a cartel to export maize to Zambia’s neighbours at high prices. The grain traders, however, denied this, saying that higher prices were the result of low production and rampant commodity smuggling.
Zambia currently has more than 700 000 ton of grain in reserve; 290 000 ton is held by the FRA and the remainder is in the hands of private grain traders.