Govt’s ‘maize policy’ inconsistency worries millers

THE Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) is riled by government’s lack of consistency on the maize situation in Zambia.

 Association president Allan Sakala said it was confusing that government kept changing policy and status on the current maize stocks in the country.

Mr. Sakala who was commenting on the decision by government to suspend exports of the commodity said that lack of consistency on the part of government was disturbing and worrying.

He said that there was no reason why government should suspend the exports of maize and maize products when the country had more than enough in stock, saying that it was surprising that government was the one who creating inconsistencies in the matter.

Mr. Sakala who also sits on the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) said that from the maize stock analysis carried out by the agency as well as the Ministry of Agriculture the nation’s food security was still intact and the people of Zambia should not panic.

“I sit on the board of FRA and I have physically visited the sheds throughout the country and there is enough maize unless they have empted themselves. We have engaged both external and internal audit to look at these stocks. We have engaged even the auditor generals’ office and the data is there,” he said.

He said that a few weeks ago government assured the nation and millers in particular that the country had about 700 000 metric tons of maize which could sustain the country for the next seven months, hence no need for the people of Zambia to express worries.

“We are actually confused about this whole thing and we don’t know what is happening because according to government and the Ministry of Agriculture the country has enough maize but with this inconsistency we are worried,” he said.

Mr. Sakala said that his association had been left without any option but to support governments move to suspend the export of Maize and maize products, adding that the country would be in the next two months harvest about 2 million metric tons of maize.

“The harvest season is in two months time from now and the general monthly consumption of maize is about 100 000 tons and the country needs about 1.2 metric tons to last for a year. We shall still have a surplus. We have a surplus from the current maize in stock of about 500 000 tons. I feel that it is high time government became consistent in the manner they are addressing the situation,” he said.

Agriculture Minister Bob Sichinga announced government’s decision to suspend the export of maize and maize products until the status of the food security within the country has been verified.

Mr Sichinga said that all export permits issued by the Ministry of Agriculture for maize and maize products including mealie meal have been revoked with immediate effect.

He said that investigations conducted within the Ministry and by the Police had indicated that there were weaknesses and questionable procedures being practiced in the Ministry over the issuance of export licenses.

“Following a number of concerns on the national food security situation that have been raised by various stakeholders, I wish to announce that it is clear from the investigations carried out so far by police and within my Ministry that there are weaknesses and questionable procedures being practiced in this Ministry over issuance of export licenses, arising from the forgoing, I have decided to suspend export of maize and maize products with immediate effect” he said.