ZAMBIA – The government of Zambia has banned the export of stock feed following concerns that millers are allegedly using subsidised maize from the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to produce the commodity instead of mealie-meal.

According to a report by Daily Mail, the ban includes but is not limited to fish, poultry, pig and any other maize-based animal feeds and their by-products.

Minister of Fisheries and Livestock Nkandu Luo said the decision follows an abrogation of an agreement by millers not to use subsidised maize from FRA to produce stock feed for export so that they make more profit.

The recent shortage of mealie meal came as a surprise to many people given the measures Government had put in place to ensure the availability of the commodity at an affordable price.

Recently, FRA released 58,000 metric tonnes of white maize under the tripartite maize programme signed with the Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) and Grain Traders Association of Zambia (GTAZ).

Last year, Government, through FRA, signed a tripartite agreement with MAZ and GTAZ to reducing the cost of mealie-meal, which had escalated to about K170 at the time.

The millers were in turn expected to pass on the benefit of subsidised maize to the consumer.

However, in the last two weeks consumers in the country have expressed concerns after the commodity got scarce with most supermarkets stocking smaller quantities such as five and 10 kilogrammes.

In outlets that had the commodity, the prices shot up sharply. This triggered bulk and panic buying.

It later transpired that the shortage was ostensibly artificial and designed to push up the price of this staple food. A 25kg bag of mealie meal, which ordinarily should be priced around K130, was being sold at about K200. This price was too expensive by any standard.

In some townships on the Copperbelt, people had to spend nights at shops where they were expecting mealie meal to be delivered.

This forced Lusaka Province Minister Bowman Lusambo and his Agriculture counterpart Michael Katambo to undertake a physical inspection of some selected milling companies and retail shops to establish reasons for the shortage of the country’s staple food because it was unjustified.

True to Mr Lusambo and Mr Katambo’s suspicions, some millers were hoarding the commodity.

Days after the two ministers’ impromptu visit, local media reports indicate that the situation has improved tremendously as most shops now have the mealie meal and are selling a 25kg bag at the recommended retail price of K137 in Lusaka.

However, the millers feel that the number of players to the tripartite agreement is still small to meet the demand countrywide. They may have a point.

In view of this, MAZ has recommended to Government to consider adding more of its members to the tripartite agreement to close the supply gap on mealie meal and help reduce the shortage of the commodity in some parts of the country.#

It has also been recommended that millers whose contracts expired should be urgently renewed so that they can turn their wheels on and help close the supply gap.

In addition, engaging more millers would help flood the market with mealie meal and, more importantly, at reasonably low prices.