Both local retail shop operators and Zimbabwean cross border traders have expressed utmost disappointment at Zimbabwe’s millers’ association.
The Grain Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe started lobbying the Zimbabwean government early this month to ban the import of mealie-meal from outside the borders of neighbouring countries.
Scores of unemployed Zimbabweans had found solace in buying bags of mealie meal from here, especially Francistown – due to its proximity to Zimbabwe – for reselling in their native country at relatively profitable prices.
Investigations carried out by Voice Money have established that a 12.5kg bag of mealie meal that costs about P37 here is fetching between P90 and P100 in the drought-stricken areas especially in the Matabeleland North province.
With the demand surpassing supply, cross border traders have taken full advantage of cashing in on the situation.
However, the development has irked Zimbabwe’s millers. And the millers in the neighboring country submitted a position paper to the Zimbabwe’s Agriculture and Mechanization Ministry led by Joseph Made.
Millers in Matabeleland said they have got the capacity to mill 60 000 metric tons of maize in a month against a monthly consumption of 48 000 metric tons.
But the Zimbabwean cross border traders argued that millers are failing to supply the market hence their decision to import maize meal into Zimbabwe.
Morris Dube of Jotsholo near Gwanda said the millers do not have the capacity and capability to meet the demand for mealie meal among hunger-stricken Zimbabweans.
Dube said the millers do not have the grain to produce the maize meal. “Millers back home are jealous. They do not want to see other people growing business wise,” said Dube, while loading close to 200 bags of mealie meal into a truck. He said many people are hungry in Zimbabwe and needs maize meal.
According to Dube, scores of Zimbabwean cross border traders could not coming here to buy maize meal if the product was readily available at home. “Unreliable supply is pushing us to be here every now and then to buy the maize meal,” said Dube, adding the demand for Zimbabwe’s staple diet is giving them motivation to be crossing the border in search for mealie meal.
Another trader Sibonginkosi Muleya said the grain millers in Zimbabwe are just trying to ensure that there is nothing coming into the country from neighboring nations. “But there is free trade. Borders in the southern Africa are now open for business,” said Muleya, adding that Zimbabwean millers should not be selfish.
A number of retail shop operators who talked to Voice Money on condition of anonymity said Zimbabwean millers should understand that countries are no longer living in a vacuum. “Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector is ailing. The country is no longer producing food as it used to do before. Lobbying for the total ban of mealie meal will be suicidal for the neighboring nation,” warned one of the retail shop operators on Francistown.