Lungu attacks ‘unscrupulous millers’ for high mealie-meal prices

President Edgar Lungu has taken a swipe at some millers for perpetuating high prices for mealie-meal, despite government’s efforts to reduce prices.

Millers, however, blame retailers, saying they are inflating prices and smuggling the commodity to neighboring countries.

“Initiatives by government to lower mealie-meal prices are being sabotaged by unscrupulous millers,” Lungu said after arriving home on a five-day visit to Israel.

He reacted to complaints by consumers and other stakeholders in the milling industry. They claim the agreement between the Grain Traders Association (GTAZ), Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) and the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) had not achieved the intended objective of lowering mealie-meal prices.

In an effort to quell rising prices, government earlier this year brokered the deal, which entails that FRA will purchase at K2 650 per ton, and sell to millers at K2 200 per ton. Government would absorb 20% of a commodity-based subsidy to make up for the difference between the purchase price and the sale to millers.

The deal should have resulted in a reduction of mealie-meal prices, but the price of a 25kg bag of white mealie-meal remained at around K130, while K90 is still the going rate for a bag of yellow.

Lungu promised an immediate investigation.

“A well-intended initiative could be failing because of some insincere and unpatriotic millers and I’m not afraid to revisit the agreement,” he said.

But MAZ President Andrew Chintala accused traders of inflating prices.

“We will stop supplying mealie-meal to traders who inflate prices and smuggle the commodity into neighboring countries,” he said.

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