Mealie meal prices have continued to soar to as high as K155 per 25Kg breakfast bag in Lusaka despite the announced measures by Agriculture Minister Michael Katambo over a week ago.
Katambo had announced that measures were put in place to cushion the escalating mealie meal prices, but the price of the commodity has continued rising, reaching K155 per 25 kilogramme bag of breakfast in some places.
Last Saturday, Katambo announced that he had met with industry players and it was agreed that the rise in mealie meal prices was caused by speculative pricing of maize, further noting that stakeholders had agreed to take steps to reduce mealie meal prices.
“The speculative pricing on the market has triggered an unwarranted rise in the maize price resulting in panic buying of maize grain. 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. I am glad to note that as of yesterday (Friday, August 23), some of the interventions had already been implemented by noted players. This will lead to stability of maize prices and eventually, mealie meal price reductions countrywide. I’m making this undertaking, government will continue to monitor the implementation of the agreed measures and regularly update the nation,” Katambo told ZNBC.
But a check at some markets around Lusaka found a 25Kg breakfast bag still trading between K135 and K155, a situation which had sustained anxieties among consumers as to whether the intended measures were really bearing fruit.
Some Lusaka residents spoken to complained that rising prices of mealie meal were impacting harshly on their families, as most could not afford the staple commodity.
“You see, when the price of maize starts reaching such levels, it leaves us with no choice, but to reduce the number of meals we eat per day, and even if we have to diversify and eat other foods, that’s an extra cost because we will still have to double stock, and the economy is biting at the moment, so that is not even an option. So, this issue has to be handled before we start having hunger issues,” said Michael Phiri.
Another resident, Mwenya Mutale, demanded that leaders ensure prices of the commodity returned to affordable levels.
“For me, the price must come down whatever it costs because this is what most people live on. How do we survive when we cannot afford our staple food? Imagine me buying a 12.5Kg bag of mealie meal at K77, why? This is unfair! Leaders can afford to eat and we at the bottom are suffering! I don’t know where we are going at this rate,” lamented Mutale.
According to the Central Statistical Office (CSO) data, the national average cost of a 25Kg mealie meal breakfast bag shot up to K120.69 as at August, 2019, compared to the same month last year when the price of the commodity was selling at K79.39 for the same quantity, representing a 52 per cent hike, the highest on record so far.
Last month’s national average price jumped nearly nine per cent compared to July, 2019, where a 25Kg mealie meal breakfast cost K110.83. The rising price of mealie meal has further affected the annual inflation rate, which closed August at 9.3 per cent, according to CSO.