Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) president Andrew Chintala says millers have started reducing mealie meal prices after government assured them that there is still enough maize stock in the country.

And Chintala has confirmed that mealie meal prices were negatively affected due to panic buying of maize by market players.

He told News Diggers! in an interview that government had, however, still not released maize stock to millers despite President Edgar Lungu’s directive to do so.

“The prices have stabilized in the last one month owing to…remember we had talks between the Millers Association of Zambia, Grain Traders Association of Zambia as well as government in trying to establish what was causing the escalation in maize prices. What we discovered was that the mealie meal prices were going up as a result of the escalating maize prices. So, it was an industry reaction, which prompted the price hikes that we had seen,” Chintala said.

He added that mealie meal prices had spiked due to panic buying of maize.

“So, I admit that we had experienced some price shocks for a good number of weeks. And it was a concern for us as MAZ. So, after a stakeholders’ meeting, we discovered that there was panic buying on the market; we quickly engaged to try and establish how much stock was available? After establishing the stock that was available on the market, it was believed that there was still enough [and] so there was no need for players on the market to panic about the stock. So, it is that development that gave us an assurance that we had enough stocks, and there was no need in terms of increasing the buying prices. So, we had to revert back and respond to the market forces,” he said.

And Chintala, who is also Mpongwe Milling corporate affairs manager, disclosed that government, through the Food Reserve Agency (FRA), had still not released maize to millers as directed by the Head of State.

“The President’s statement was such that considering the current prevailing situation on mealie meal prices, government is considering releasing maize to some millers in order to try and stabilize mealie meal prices. I can confirm that talks have begun and we haven’t concluded. So, we hope that these talks can be concluded as soon as possible so that we can start implementing what the President had proposed. [So] the government hasn’t yet released the maize; it is because of the engagements and the interventions with government that gave us the confidence and assurance that there was enough grain, and as a result, triggering into stability of maize prices as well as now translating into (reducing) mealie meal prices. The current stability in the prices is as a result of those interventions that we had as stakeholders,” said Chintala.

And random check on mealie meal prices in some retail outlets found the commodity had reduced from K145 per 25Kg breakfast bag one month ago to between K115 and K120 for the same quantity.

The national average price of a 25Kg breakfast bag skyrocketed to K133.32 last month compared to just K80.45 in September, 2018, according to Central Statistical Office (CSO) data.