Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) president Andrew Chintala has disclosed that the country is currently experiencing a shortage of maize on the market, which is a major contributor to the prevailing high mealie meal prices.

And Chintala has called on Zambians who are complaining about high mealie meal prices to choose the cheaper option of roller meal.

In May, this year, Minister of Agriculture Micheal Katambo said Zambia had enough maize stocks to meet the human and industrial requirements until the next year’s harvest.

But speaking when he featured on Radio Phoenix’s Let the People Talk programme, Friday, Chintala revealed that the current mealie meal price increases were as a result of a shortage of maize on the local market.

“You are referring to a crop forecast; what is happening out there is reality. What we are saying is that maize is in short supply, it is not meeting the demand, and supply is not meeting demand. There could be two things there: one, the supplier of the commodity will say, ‘fine, can I keep my maize, maybe, for another two or three weeks and maybe the prices will…..I mean, there are speculations in any market. If there are speculations in a market, one would gamble by thinking the price of maize probably could reach K200 per 50kg bag if I keep it for another two weeks. So, we cannot overrule the fact that there could be speculators. And we are not saying the country is not food secure, but we are looking at the statistics and going forward, there has to be a stock verification so that the true position is known,” Chintala said.

“So, what is currently happening is just the market forces; supply is not meeting the demand. Supply is so huge and now supply could be enjoying what’s happening. This is a unique year, I have never seen anything in the last five years I have been at the helm of the (Millers) Association, and prices are changing every day. So, even if we recorded two million (metric tonnes) and at retention there is 500 that is not available on the market, you will have 1,500 so there is scramble! People are running and chasing this maize! We are half-way through the maize (crop) marketing season; we hope that as we get towards the close, the situation will definitely improve. So, we are calling on some of the farmers and some of the traders who have got grain to say ‘release it on the market,’ let’s flood the market with the grain and that will be able to help us solve the equation in as far as striking the balance.”

And Chintala called on Zambians, who were still complaining about high mealie meal prices, to opt for the cheaper roller meal option.

“And one very important issue, we are saying the prices are K115 and K120, how much is a bag of roller meal? It’s about K90, who says if you consume roller meal, you die? It’s actually even more nutritious! You know, let’s face reality. Roller meal is cheaper, relatively below K90, which is the same quantity that you get in a 25Kg of breakfast meal, so let us try and access what we are able to afford,” advised Chintala.

“FRA (Food Reserve Agency) also procures rice; they also buy groundnuts and soya beans as well. We are talking about maize because this is obviously something that touches on many people’s lives. It’s, indeed, important to start making such calls to say we need to change and begin to adapt to the new consumption patterns; why should we only depend on maize? This is in line with government policy when they are talking about crop diversification, introducing new other crops that you can consume. There are other food stuffs that are available, and besides, food security doesn’t border on maize, we have got other food stuffs,” he added.