Millers powerless over high meal prices

The Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) has no control over the prevailing high mealie meal prices in the country, says association president Allan Sakala.
Mr. Sakala said that mealie meal prices will either increase or reduce depending on the maize price on the open market.
In an interview, Mr. Sakala said that his association had no control over the recent increase in mealie meal prices because of the removal of subsidies on maize and fuel and that milling companies needed to operate to the expected standards in the provision of the service.
Mr. Sakala told the Daily Nation that individual Milling Companies were the ones determining the prices depending on the operation costs and the prevailing maize prices on the open market.
“As you are aware the government was selling maize to millers on a subsidized price or controlled prices and that had influence on the retail prices. But this time when there has been the removal of subsidy on maize it is difficult for us to negotiate prices. We cannot do that because individual millers have set their prices putting into account cost incurred in business,” he said.
“At the moment we cannot dictate the prices to the millers as it used to be. These people are not buying anymore subsidized maize. They will dictate or determine the prices depending on their operational cost, source and transportation of the grain,” he said.
He said that mealie meal prices were going up because of the expensive maize millers were purchasing from the current open market.
Mr. Sakala also revealed that most milling companies were in the process of buying maize from  the 2013 maize marketing season, adding that the process would enable the country to estimate what stocks of maize was available for local consumption.
“We are aware about the current maize deficit the entire Southern African region is experiencing and we thank government for stopping the exports because we need the commodity for local consumption and we shall only be worried if they open exports,” he said.
Vice President Guy Scott last week told parliament that there was a maize deficit in the region as a result it was difficult and complicated to handle or control the increased mealie meal prices the country was facing.