The Zambian maize market is in a crunch following a standoff between millers and traders, sparking fears of price hike in mealie meal prices. This is as the price of maize went up to nearly US$1 700/ton from US$1 200/ton.
The Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) accuses traders of holding back the grain, an accusation the Grain Traders Association of Zambia (GTAZ) threw out as disingenuous.
“We are going to see price fluctuations in mealie meal prices for as long the maize is scarce,” said MAZ President Andrew Chintala.
But, GTAZ Executive Director Chimbuleni Simwinga, laid the blame on millers saying they owed more than US$400 000 for stock supplied to them.
“This has made it difficult for maize suppliers to trade,” said Simwinga. He accused the millers of claiming a grain shortage as a ruse to access subsidised grain from the Food Reserve Agency (FRA).
“This is the small old story. For as long as government does not stand its ground and allows them to buy maize from FRA, millers will continue to behave in this fashion,” he said.
Last year, the Zambian government, in a bid to stabilise sky-rocketing mealie meal prices, brokered a maize deal with the FRA, MAZ and GTAZ.
Under the deal government absorbed 20% of a commodity based subsidy to make it possible for FRA to purchase maize at K2 650/ton and sell to millers at K2 200/ton.
Meanwhile, the Economic Association of Zambia (EAZ) urged the FRA to offload maize stocks on the market to help stabilise prices for mealie meal.
“The price hike we have seen in mealie meal not only instigated by the recent fuel increase but also the lack of maize availability to millers. The FRA must react by pushing cheaper maize on the market,” said EAZ President Crispin Mpuka.
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