ZIMBABWE – Small and Medium Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe (SMMAZ) has embarked on a pilot project to brand their maize meal packaging material with a standard Government subsidy stamp to ensure it reaches the intended consumers in the wake of shortage of mealie-meal in the country and outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.

At present there are concerns that subsidised maize meal is being diverted onto the parallel market by cartels for arbitrage opportunities, while the formal market suffered limited stock.

A document addressed to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce dated April 20, 2020 and copied to the Ministries of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, and Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, SMMAZ interim chairman Mr Davis Muhambi said:

“SMMAZ is glad to announce that it will be embarking on a campaign whose main objective among others, is to ensure that subsidy roller meal reaches the intended consumer and is not diverted onto the black market.”

“As a first step in implementing this campaign, SMMAZ has adopted a standard Government subsidy stamp design which it has implemented on the packaging of member millers as a pilot project.”

Mr Muhambi said the motivation behind the initiative is to ensure that subsidised maize meal reaches its intended beneficiaries through proper retail shops and at the recommended price.

He noted that presently, it is almost impossible for anyone to identify or distinguish between subsidised and non-subsidised maize meal.

“This has fuelled the channelling of subsidy maize meal to the black market and dealers are now profiting at the expense of citizens. Once it is easy to identify by way of the subsidy stamp, citizens can demand to purchase maize meal at the regulated price,” said Mr Muhambi.

Law enforcement and task-forces will also be able to easily identify subsidy maize meal being sold on the black market and to take the necessary measures at that point.

In coming up with the concept, Mr Muhambi said SMMAZ, is further motivated by its members’ social responsibility and loyalty to their clients to try by all means to alleviate the plight of the ordinary citizen who cannot afford the exorbitant prices obtaining on the black market.

In the letter to the Government, the small and medium millers’ association appealed for support to their initiative by drafting and enacting legislation that makes it mandatory for millers participating in the programme to incorporate the stamp on all their packaging.

So far, two milling companies within the small and medium milling sector have implemented the pilot project.

Millers in the sector have also appealed for Government support by outlawing the sale of subsidised maize meal on the black market as well as criminalising the re-bagging of subsidy roller meal into plain, unbranded or unstamped packaging and or erasing the subsidy stamp.

In their submission, SMMAZ have also appealed to the Government for the proposed legislation to be supported by punitive fines of at least three times the subsidy consumer price per 10kg which translates to $210, harsh jail sentences or both, as a deterrent to would-be black-market retailers or accomplices.

The millers have also proposed the need for Government to embark on an awareness campaign targeting the general public in order to make known the existence of the stamp and its features.

In other related news, the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) is approaching Zimbabweans in the diaspora and NGOs operating in the country for some crowd-funding to raise foreign currency for maize imports.

This would see millers request for forex in exchange for local transactions by citizens based abroad.

According to GMAZ chairperson Tafadzwa Musarara, “Zimbabwe receives about US$90 million in diaspora remittances per month. Private sector needs about 80 000 tonnes of maize to feed the commercial market which is equivalent to US$25 million.”

“We are appealing to our fellow citizens in the diaspora we will be approaching them very soon to assist us in crowd funding for the sale of maize.”