THE country’s national maize reserves have dropped sharply and authorities have to ramp up imports to save citizens from starvation, Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe chairperson Tafadzwa Musarara (TM) told NewsDay (ND) Midlands reporter Brenna Matendere in a
recent interview. Below are excerpts of the
Interview by Brenna Matendere
ND: What is the current state of grain and, in particular, national stocks of maize?
TM: Stocks remain below requirement, but not very critical. I am unable to mention figures at the moment since it’s a national security issue.
ND: How many tonnes do you have and what are you using the maize for?
TM: Following the government dispensation we got in December 2019, we have imported more than 150 000 metric tonnes. To date, we have in hold 40 000 metric tonnes. This importation programme complements government maize imports.
ND: We understand you are currently conducting zonal distribution of subsidised roller meal, which areas have you
covered so far? Is the programme still on and why have you not been visible in rural areas?
TM: The zonal distribution programme seeks to increase maize meal deliveries to residential areas, especially high-density areas. Secondly, to co-ordinate deliveries so that queues are properly managed in the context of social distancing. Thirdly, to enforce gazetted prices so that consumers benefit. We started focusing on the seven hotspot areas mainly Harare, Chitungwiza, Bulawayo, Mutare, Gweru, Kwekwe and Masvingo.
Yes, we have not been visible in the rural areas because we have been focusing on highdensity areas in the urban areas because the situation was dire.
ND: Who sets the price of maize you buy from GMB?
TM: The price of maize is set by Cabinet.
ND: Concerning the subsidy issue, how is it calculated and who determines it?
TM: The subsidy is a price intervention that is decided by Cabinet. Government analyses income levels and determines an affordable price.
ND: Before the new maize prices issued last week, how many tonnes had you distributed, and are we going to see prices of roller meal going up?
TM: Since we started, we have distributed 25 million kilogrammes nationwide.
ND: Suppose the price issue has been resolved, are you able to cover all the towns, cities, growth points and rural areas?
TM: We have a robust, functional and efficient distribution mechanism across the country. National demand is currently at 3 500 metric tonnes a day and we can supply, if maize is available, more than that per day.
ND: Last month, you offered government 40 000 tonnes of maize, which you said could be used for roller meal production. Did government take up the offer?
TM: The government accepted the offer and
the requisite processes to pay and transfer the
maize to government are currently underway.
ND: You were part of the Vice-President Kembo Mohadi-initiated price moratorium recently. What did you agree on?
TM: We agreed on the price stabilisation of, among others things, maize meal, rice and bread flour. Millers accepted the price to remain at the March 25, 2020 levels until May 30, 2020. The agreement also bound the price of GMB wheat and GMB maize.
ND: Rice is the substitute for mealie meal, do we have enough rice and do you think vulnerable members of our
society can afford it?
TM: The price of rice is admittedly high since it is being imported using free-funds. So far, supply continues to exceed demand.
ND: Talking about wheat, the nation has for almost a year now been silent about it because of the abundance of
bread in the shops, how much stock of the cereal is in the country?
TM: The private sector and government have been obtaining sufficient wheat stocks for the market. I cannot divulge the statistics.
ND: Because of scarcity of mealie meal, people tend to crowd when they get deliveries. How are you ensuring
there is social distancing at delivery points?
TM: We are doing basically two things. Firstly, delivering maize meal stocks by
concentrating on particular districts each day. This allows for many queues concurrently, but they will be shorter and discourage stampeding. Secondly, working with the Zimbabwe Republic Police, who provide the necessary enforcement.
ND: How protected is the personnel delivering the mealie-meal so that
there is no spreading of the coronavirus?
TM: We are providing them with the necessary personal protective equipment as per guidelines by the Health ministry.
ND: When do you think the food situation in the country is going to improve and what do you propose the
country should do to ensure that we do not continue importing grain?
TM: The current predicament is precipitated by climate change. There is need to provide alternative irrigation to ensure that our crops are nurtured in order to realise the minimum yield. Private sector and government must continue working together in the farming and importation of grain.