The government and the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) are heading for a clash as the former has refused to postpone the mandatory Food Fortification Programme after an urgent appeal by the latter.
BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA
On May 11, GMAZ wrote to Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa asking for the government to delay the implementation of the Fortification Programme on the back of currency challenges.
But, Parirenyatwa told NewsDay yesterday that there was no going back on implementation of the proposed food fortification programme where food packagers were expected to add certain trace elements to foodstuffs starting on June 1.
“We want nutrients and the issue of currency is something else, but from a health point of view we want those fortifications done,” Parirenyatwa said.
The mandatory food fortification programme was promulgated by Statutory Instrument 120 of 2016, which goes into effect on June 1.
Food fortification or enrichment is the process of adding micronutrients (essential trace elements and vitamins) to food. The World Health Organisation and the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations define food fortification as the practice of deliberately increasing the content of an essential micronutrient.
The concern of GMAZ was that the nutrients cannot be locally made and needed to be imported. As such, with the challenges in remitting foreign currency outside the country it would be challenging for millers to import the nutrients.
Sources say the millers have had some engagements with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, but that the central bank was not adequately helping them, describing the assistance as “meagre”.
In the letter from GMAZ in possession of NewsDay, GMAZ said they had reached the conclusion to request an indefinite delay on the programme after conducting nationwide consultations with grain millers.
“The prevalent nostro currency liquidity challenges are severely affecting the timeous remittances of imported wheat and maize. Consequently, we have been unable to meet import payments for the acquisition of fortification equipment and the fortificants,” GMAZ said
“The government and the development partners have not done massive and extensive consumer awareness campaign to sensitise the public about these additives.”
NewsDay reached Consumer Council of Zimbabwe executive director Rosemary Siyachitema yesterday who declined to comment on the matter.
Importing maize and wheat comes as a result of low yields locally on the back of the chaotic fast-track land redistribution programme.