Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) president Andrew Chintala has warned that consumers should expect an increment in mealie meal prices if the Energy Regulation Board (ERB) proceeds to hike electricity tariffs and fuel prices.

Last Tuesday, Energy Minister Mathew Nkhuwa said Zesco’s proposed power tariff hike would be effected without the Cost of Service Study because the power utility was “bleeding.”

He also announced that the fuel pump price would be reviewed following the kwacha’s sharp depreciation, which hit the K15 per dollar mark, Thursday.

In an interview, Chintala, however, cautioned that any upward fuel or electricity adjustment would lead to higher mealie meal prices.

“Firstly, fuel is key in any industry. In our case, I think let me narrow it down to our operation; you may be aware that there are millers that have practically gone to gensets in terms of production because of the load shedding. There is also the distribution of mealie meal as well as the uplifting of maize from the open market from different sources. So, anything to do with any upward adjustment, what I can say to you is that, it is a chain reaction. So, once that the electricity or fuel goes up, definitely, we expect that to trickle down to all the users of the two commodities,” said Chintala.

“I cannot really give statistics, but obviously, I can say to you that, definitely, we will be equally affected because it has a ripple effect towards the value chain. It is a chain reaction. What I am saying is that we will cross the bridge when we get there. For now, I can safely say whatever happens either negative or positive has got an impact on our side. So, when you talk of the prices of the commodity, I am afraid let me probably say this to you: it is not just electricity or fuel that determines the price of the product if it is mealie meal, stock feed or whatever it is. There are a number of factors that you have to put in place for you to establish what the position is in terms of the final prices of the products. So, I am saying let us get there and we will be able to give the position.”

The national average mealie meal price as at November, this year, stood at K150.49 per 25Kg breakfast bag, an all-time high, compared to when prices of the commodity for the same quantity were around K85.80 last November, representing a 75.4 per cent increase, according to Central Statistical Office (CSO) data.

Mealie meal prices have been increasing month-on-month all throughout this year for a sixth successive time since May.