MEALIE meal prices are still too high for poor Zambians to afford, UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema has said.
In an interview yesterday, Mr. Hichilema said it was unacceptable for the people of Zambia to be subjected to high mealie meal prices when the grain was sourced locally from small scale framers.
He said there was no excuse why Zambians should be buying mealie meal at K80 in Lusaka and over K130 in rural areas and more in other far-flung areas.
“It shocks me how the PF is running Government. Look at the prices of mealie meal. They are still high when the grain is locally produced.
‘‘There is no way we should allow our people to starve as a result of failure to implement policies that help development of the milling industry,” said Mr. Hichilema.
Mr. Hichilema said Government should take steps to reduce wholesale prices of mealie meal now especially after directing the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to sell their maize at a subsidized price.
He said failure by those in leadership to address the factors that lead to the increase of mealie meal prices, more Zambians would not afford the staple food which would result in widespread malnutrition.
“As at now I cannot see these high mealie meal prices go down. Although the gesture to offload cheap maize to the millers is welcome, Government should go further and look at the root causes of high prices of mealie meal in the country and address them. It is unacceptable for our people to continue being exploited,” he said.
Mr. Hichilema said it was disturbing that despite Zambian farmers producing maize for consumption and export, the price of the commodity was too high and unaffordable.
“When Government made a reduction of K4, Zambians were still failing to buy a 25kg bag of mealie meal when the price was at K50 before it was increased to K65. Zambians are failing to buy because most of them are unemployed and if employed are getting little salaries or slave wages,” said Mr. Hichilema.
He said Government should look at lasting solutions to the high prices of mealie meal rather than firefighting for solutions, adding that the PF administration should consider making farming as a profitable business with a readily available market not only for maize but also for all other farm produce.
“It is sad that we still import cucumbers and watermelons from South Africa when we grow our own here in Zambia. This is what Government should promote as a serious way of diversification.
‘‘Let them give certain incentives to farmers who promote the growth of other crops. This can be done by Government revising the policy to buy out all their produce and this will reduce prices of mealie because people will not depend on mealie meal alone but other farm produce,” said Mr. Hichilema.
A check in most main super markets around Lusaka revealed that prices of mealie meal were still high.
Most super markets were selling a 25kg bag of breakfast mealie meal at between K75 and K80 while the same quantity of roller meal was going at between K60 and K65 respectively.