Agriculture Minister Michael Katambo says the ongoing smuggling of maize outside Zambia is distorting the availability of the commodity in the country and affecting mealie meal prices.

And the Minister has emphasised that the country is food secure and has enough maize being held by different players in the country.

But the Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) has condemned “the reintroduction of price controls
of maize by the Minister of Agriculture Honourable Michael Katambo”.

Speaking on ZNBC TV, Saturday evening, Katambo stated that government was reinforcing security at border points to curb smuggling of maize grain and mealie meal out if the country.

“Government is also aware that there are some traders who are still involved in illegal trading of maize and mealie meal across our borders. In order to secure the maize and mealie meal within the country, government has reinforced measures at all border points to curb smuggling. Further, I wish to remind the nation that the export restrictions of maize and mealie meal are still in force,” he said.

Katambo noted that the increasing price of mealie meal was caused by speculative pricing of maize following a perceived shortage of the commodity in the country.

“The nation is informed that over the past few days we undertook consultations with key market players involved in maize marketing, milling and selling of mealie meal to customers. These included stock feed manufacturers, Miller’s, grain traders and retailers. From the consultations, it has been established that the sudden rise in the price of mealie meal in retail outlets in the past three weeks as reported by some media houses, is due to sharp increase in the prices arising from the speculative pricing of maize by players using the perceived maize shortage in the country as a bargaining tool. The speculative pricing on the market has triggered an unwarranted rise in the maize price resulting in panic buying of maize grain,” he explained.

And Katambo emphasised that the country was food secure and had enough maize being held by different players.

“As minister responsible for agriculture, let me once again assure the nation that the country has sufficient maize stocks and is food secure despite unusual low maize harvest especially in the southern and Western provinces. Further, it has been established that based on the current maize stock levels held by the players and taking into account the production costs, it was concluded that mealie meal prices should be more affordable. Based on the consensus reached with all stakeholders, I am pleased to announce to the nation that stakeholders agreed to reduce the cost of maize grain which will lead to reduced mealie meal prices. Further, all stakeholders have committed and agreed to take up steps to bring the price of maize down. Am glad to note that as at yesterday ( Friday), some of the interventions had already been implemented by noted players. This will lead to stability of maize prices and eventual mealie meal price reductions country wide. In making this undertaking, government will continue to monitor the implementation of the agreed measures and regularly update the nation,” noted Katambo.

But ZNFU president Javis Zimba wondered if Katambo had become the minister of millers for him to dictate prices.

“The Zambia National Farmers’ Union is saddened by the reintroduction of price controls
of maize by the Minister of Agriculture Honourable Michael Katambo, who has now become the
Minster of Millers. The ZNFU would like to disassociate itself from such acts as we have always believed in a free
market environment. As such, the ZNFU would like to disassociate itself too from being party to the consultation
process of the reintroduction of price controls of maize,” he said.

“We are aware that the Minister met with Stockfeed Producers, Millers and Traders who were threatened or coerced to impose the price of K130 per 50kg bag of maize with full support of the Food Reserve Agency (FRA), which was the basis of price controls. In this vain, the Union has called for an urgent meeting of farmers this week to chart the way forward on the reintroduction of maize price controls by Government, and the nation shall be informed of the outcome of the meeting.”