By HELLEN TEMBO –
THE price of nshima has begun dropping as a result of a deal between millers, grain traders and the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) facilitated by Government through the Ministry of Agriculture.
The FRA and the Grain Traders Association of Zambia (GTAZ), prodded by presidential displeasure at the escalating price of the mealie, recently agreed to offload cheap maize to millers to facilitate for cheaper mealie-meal for the consumers who have been paying upwards of K100 per 25kilogramme bag favoured by average-sized households for months now.
An initial nine millers signed to agreement and result has been an almost instant drop of around K10 per K25 bag of mealie meal with further reductions expected in the days to come, according to the Millers Association of Zambian (MAZ) which is pushing for more of its members to be allowed access to the cheaper maize.
Following the signing of the agreement, Superior Milling, one of the nation’s biggest millers, has reduced its mealie meal prices across the country through their retail partners and at their own depots by about K5 per bag on both 25kg breakfast meal and 25kg roller meal with a pro-rata reduction on all their small packs.
Superior Milling managing director Peter Cottan said the prices in Lusaka were ranging from K89.99 to K91.99 for 25kg breakfast depending on the retailer, which in some cases was a reduction of K10 per bag
from the previous retail prices.
Mr Cottan said in a statement that the reductions were made possible by Government intervention through FRA entering into an agreement with GTAZ and selected millers.
He said where maize was offloaded to the millers at K2,200 per tonne, the millers were selling the popular breakfast meal at K85 per bag from the plant and K70 per bag from the plant for roller meal.
Mr Cottan said retailers were allowed to add a maximum of K5 per 25kg bag as markup for distribution and transportation charges.
Until the FRA contract was signed, there was a shortage of maize on the open market as most of the stocks were being held by grain traders who were insisting on export-parity prices but now these
stocks have been unlocked through the agreement.
President Edgar Lungu expressed his concerns at the cost of mealie meal last month and the directed Minister of Agriculture Dora Siliya to arrange a stakeholders’ meeting to find a solution to the problem.
Mr Cottan said the agreement ensured that millers received a sufficient quantity of maize to ensure national coverage of their mealie meal through their retail partners Shoprite, Game, Pick n Pay, Spar, Cheers, Melisa, SCG and Puma filling stations as well as at all their own retail depots across the country.
He said the current prices would remain constant until June this year to allow for the new crop harvest to come on the market and maintain a constant supply of mealie meal at reasonable prices.
Mr Cottan predicted a bumper harvest this year in spite of the armyworm damage done to thousands of fields across the country which would assist millers to purchase sufficient stocks and keep prices under control.
At check in some super markets found mealie meal prices of other milling brands as high as K99.
THE Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) said more millers needed to be signed up to the agreement to accelerate the drop in mealie meal prices.
MAZ chairperson Andrew Chintala said in an interview yesterday that many of the milling companies had not yet signed the contract agreed to with the grain traders and the FRA and needed to do so for them to participate in providing a solution to the high prices.
“As MAZ, our strongest appeal is for Government to expedite the process of signing contracts with the remaining milling firms which are spread across the country. We have only nine millers that are accessing cheaper maize at the moment, and most of them are based in Lusaka. We need to include even those in other provinces,” he said.
Mr Chintala said the association would publish the names of all the milling companies that have started accessing the cheaper maize for their production.