Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE mealie-meal shortage being experienced in Bulawayo is “artificial” and consumers should not panic over supplies, the Grain Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ), said yesterday.
While admitting that several retail shops in the city had recently run out of the commodity, GMAZ vice chairman, Mr Masimba Dzomba, who also operates a milling firm in Bulawayo, said the shortage was suspected to be a result of some millers taking their product to rural areas where they sell it in foreign currency.
He said although millers were getting fewer than “normal” grain allocations from the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), the prevailing mealie-meal shortage was not justified.
“Although the allocations we are getting are fewer than normal, they (millers) cannot explain the shortage of maize meal currently being experienced,” said Mr Dzomba.
“We strongly believe that maize meal is being transferred to further parts of the southern region of the country where the product is being sold in South African rand.”
The millers’ association, Mr Dzomba said, was able to trace the unethical business practice by some of the millers through the “price and commodity monitoring programme”, which has since been suspended following a recent directive by the Competition and Tariff Commission (CTC).
“We were able to trace this unethical practice through our price and commodity monitoring programme until recently when the exercise was banned by the CTC, and it is unfortunate that the consumer is now exposed,” he said.
In May this year, GMAZ signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers and agreed on a model pricing system of basic commodities.
The association had said its motive was to protect consumers from being short-changed by unscrupulous retailers.
The exercise was suspended in July after the CTC said it would investigate the possibilities of cartels that could emerge from initiatives where producers of goods and services set recommended price ranges of goods and services.
CTC director, Ms Ellen Ruparanganda, could not be reached for comment yesterday as her number was not reachable.
Meanwhile, GMAZ media and public relations manager, Mr Garikai Chaunza, on Monday said Government increased maize and wheat prices to millers by 86 percent and 38 percent respectively.
“Maize price is now at ZW$1 300 per tonne from ZW$700 per tonne with wheat going up from ZW$1 600 per tonne to ZW$2 200 per tonne,” he said.
Although Zimbabwe did not harvest enough grain to meet national demand as a result of the drought experienced during the last farming season, Government has assured the nation that no one will starve as measures have been put in place to cover the deficit through imports. — @okazunga