Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) president Andrew Chintala says the price of mealie meal is expected to go up following an increase in the country’s annual rate of inflation.

The annual rate of inflation skyrocketed to 10.5 per cent last month, up from 9.3 per cent recorded in August, the highest on record since October, 2016, according to Central Statistical Office (CSO) data.

The increase in the annual inflation rate is attributed to food price movements, mainly maize products such as mealie meal, which had peaked to a national average of K133.32 per 25Kg breakfast bag, the highest on record so far.

In an interview, Chintala said while the anticipated increment in mealie meal prices could not be ascertained at this moment, future price hikes would depend on the impact inflation will have on the cost of production.

“You see, when we talk about inflation, you need to understand one thing that, obviously, when the inflation rate goes up the entire industry, there is always an industry reaction to that, so it is an expected situation that whenever the inflation goes up, you expect the cost of production also to go up. So clearly, it’s very difficult to predict the numbers though we anticipate that things might go that direction. Usually, what happens is that whenever we have these economic challenges or issues to do with inflation, we quickly convene to analyze the extent in terms of the impact that will make in terms of the production and the supply of the commodity,” Chintala said.

“So, these are things that we tend to respond to as time progresses so, clearly, I cannot state in terms of percentages or numbers, but it is just a common understanding that whenever there are these changes in the sector, definitely, you expect to see a reaction across the value chain.”

He also reiterated the Association’s commitment to ensuring that the maize diversification policy was fully implemented.

“So we would like to see that, probably in the coming years, we introduce maybe even the blended products, such as maize and cassava meal products, wheat and maybe maize meal products and so forth so that we can give a variety to the consumers in order to make some of these foodstuffs or crops accessible at an affordable price to consumers. So, we are committed to seeing that the diversification policy being promoted by government is implemented fully so that we can provide a wide range of products that our consumers can access on the market at affordable prices,” said Chintala.

“Obviously, in terms of growth, I would probably narrow that down to product diversification if you like. So, I would like to see that more products are introduced through the value chain. We have been talking about mealie meal from time immemorial and this is an issue that is attracting everyone’s attention because whatever we have to talk about as millers, we are known to be producers of mealie meal. What about the wheat products and so forth…”