Zim runs out of mealie meal

BY EVERSON MUSHAVA

ZIMBABWE’s current mealie meal shortages have been blamed on the Industry and Commerce ministry which failed to register over 60 millers for maize subsidy, with millers withholding their stocks to avoid losses.

Government scrapped maize subsidies at the start of the month, but reintroduced them after a public outcry over high prices.

Government, however, introduced a new condition that millers should be registered with the Industry ministry to qualify for the subsidy programme, in a statement released on December 13 by the Finance ministry.

But some millers have complained that the registration process was very slow and about 60 millers have not been registered for the
subsidy programme.

The millers are now withholding their stocks for fear that they may not be registered at all.

“The 60 millers are holding on to their maize stocks and cannot risk producing roller meal without being registered,” a miller who requested anonymity said.

“The few who have been registered are struggling to supply the market and this has caused serious shortages of the product on the market. Only highly priced refined mealie-meal being sold at around $115 per 10kg is found in the shops.”

The gazetted price of the roller meal is $50, which is seen as affordable for the public.

NewsDay observed yesterday that many retail shops did not have roller meal.

The registered millers include National Foods Limited (NFL) and Blue Ribbon Foods, which were allocated

28 000 tonnes and 10 000 respectively, out of the 40 000 which government has availed to millers.

Millers who spoke to NewsDay said they were being sent from one office to another without getting any assistance.

Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) spokesperson Garikai Chaunza confirmed receiving reports of delayed registration process from millers.

“We are receiving calls from our members asking if the association could assist them and it is our hope that the authorities would speed up the process, so that millers who are holding on to their maize grain start milling and supply the market given that we are in the festive season, where mealie-meal is one of the products on demand,” he said.

“We have the capacity to supply the nation throughout the festive season and what we are waiting for is that government registers us.

“Millers are now required to register with the Industry ministry and after that, approach the Finance ministry, which will give them the subsidy money before they go to GMB for maize collection. The process is cumbersome and millers are complaining that there is no transparency in the process.”

GMAZ used to facilitate the process for its members.

Last week, GMAZ Southern region members raised concern over what they described as a show of “unfair and anti-competitive behaviour,” shown by NFL, which allegedly met government privately and secured over half of the total subsidised monthly maize allocation of 40 000 metric tonnes outside the association.

However, according to the December 13 statement by the Finance ministry, not only GMAZ members qualified for the subsidy programme.

Industry minister Sekai Nzenza yesterday said the matter would be addressed.

“I am surprised that the process is taking long as the team is working hard to register millers. However, we need to resolve this matter quickly and there should be no shortages at all. Please do send the questions to my PA, Victoria Sigauke, and we will investigate,” she said.

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