With increasing prices of mealie meal and persistent shortages of the commodity escalating, Agriculture and Livestock Minister Emmanuel Chenda has now said he blames millers for the shortages of the staple food.
Chenda has questioned the shortages affecting many areas of the country, pointing out that the price for the commodity had continued to escalate.
“I do not understand why there is no mealie meal. I also cannot see why the mealie meal is being sold at high prices,” he said.
Chenda was responding to the critical shortage of mealie meal, which is being sold at exorbitant prices in many parts of Zambia.
The latest regions to report mealie meal shortages are Solwezi and Kasama where residents have been spending long hours at supermarkets to buy the expensive food. Food shortages in rural areas of Zambia have in the past led to social unrest, including the food riots which brought an end to the one-party state of President Kenneth Kaunda.
Speaking in an interview in Lusaka, Chenda said he was going to meet millers to find out why they had continued to sale mealie meal at high prices.
“I want the millers to explain why they are selling mealie meal expensively and why they are creating this artificial shortage of the commodity in the midst of adequate stocks of maize,” he said.
Through the Food Reserve Agency, the government offloaded enough maize to millers and the agency still has 700,000 tonnes for offloading in case of shortages.
“I wonder where the mealie meal is going because we have enough maize. The millers had complained that the shortages were as a result of maize shortages. We have allowed the FRA to give them maize, but shockingly, the mealie meal shortages have continued.
To expose the millers, Chenda said he would soon publish the quantities of maize sold to each of the millers so that the nation could see how the millers were hoarding maize and creating artificial shortages in order to distabilise the government.
“The artificial shortage is because of greed from the millers who have been exporting mealie meal to the Great Lakes Region through Kasama for instance,” he Sid.
Recently, President Michael Sata directed millers to tag their mealie meal prices at Kr50, but this directive has been defied with impunity because the millers insist that their businesses are dictated by market forces and not political statements.
Mr Sata had indicated that regime change is sometimes instigated by food shortages and that he did not want to be removed from State House of mealie meal shortages in Zambia.