THE government's decision to renew and extend import permits for wheat flour and maize meal that were about to expire has riled farmers and grain millers, who have said the move will likely “plunge the industry to a sudden death”.
Industry players reacted angrily to the notification, which was contained in a letter dated November 06 2023.
“Following our letter dated September 15 2023, wherein maize meal imports were restricted to household consumption only up to a maximum of 20kgs per entry, the ministry has extended and renewed permits that were due to expire,” the Ministry of Industry and Commerce said in the letter.
“In this regard, (the) ministry hereby advises that all running permits for maize meal and wheat flour will expire on the 30th of November 2023 except for Innscor and Greens Supermarket, which expires on the 31st of December 2023 for both import permits.
“You are, therefore, kindly requested to facilitate the movement of the maize meal and wheat flour consignments covered within this period.”
But millers and farmer unions have castigated the move, saying it was a big blow on the off-take of local wheat.
Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe national chairperson Tafadzwa Musarara said the move affected local sales as imported flour would be dominating supermarket shelves.
“The development is a huge blow to off-take of local wheat this year. Imported flour continues to dominate the local market,” Musarara said.
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“Our current sales are 40% lower than the same period last year as some bakers have imported flour stocks to last them up to the end of February 2023.”
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Shadreck Makombe said the influx of imported flour will affect the local wheat market.
“The effect is on dumping so to speak and the effects of dumping are that farmers will naturally be affected since the imports are coming cheaper compared to our products. It is not a healthy situation,” Makombe said.
“But the government is in a corner given the situation. The government feels there is food insecurity as a result of farmers not delivering to the Grain Marketing Board.”
Makombe said the move by the government should be temporary.
“As farmers, we are saying such arrangements should be temporary while we encourage farmers to deliver their products.”
National Bakers Association of Zimbabwe president Luckymore Zinyama said the move by the government will benefit the baking industry.
“As long as the S180 is in place, we either get flour from outside the country or locally. As producers of bread, we want flour at its best price and the best price at the moment is coming from imports,” he said.
Zinyama said imported flour adds to their advantage because of its quality.
“My initial reaction is that yes, for us it is good and for our customer but we also need to strike the balance with the local flour. The price should be kept at reasonable levels,” he said.