Party of National Unity (PNU) president Highvie Hamududu says government must find a lasting solution to escalating prices of mealie-meal outside market forces.

And Hamududu, in an interview, also stressed the need for government to move maize from surplus areas to deficit regions for people to access the commodity at cheaper prices.

He has further advised the government not to interfere in agriculture and focus on securing maize for domestic consumption to ensure lower prices of mealie meal.

“The rest of the region is hungry. Everyone is clamouring for Zambian maize; Zimbabwe wants Zambian maize, Congo DRC wants Zambian maize. So the demand for maize is really high when you look at the regional perspective. So this is a problem as well as an opportunity. It is an opportunity in that if government supports farmers properly, farmers will reap benefits of high prices of maize because high price of maize is good for farmers. But government must just find another way of addressing mealie meal for domestic consumption only. There must be another vehicle for providing cheaper mealie meal for domestic consumption because citizens are undergoing unemployment and poverty. High prices are good for farmers for agriculture to grow,” Hamududu said.

“Can Zambia do it? Yes we can do it because we have enough maize. Why do you want to start begging when you have enough food and you are just failing to distribute food across the country? Can government offload maize in the strategic food reserve and feed the people? And at the same time, government must ensure that the inputs are delivered on time. So there must be a short-term solution to deal with the current hunger situation, a medium-term solution which has to involve the delivery of inputs early and improvement of extension services for farmers, and a long-term solution. Let us solve the real problem.”

And Hamududu also stressed the need for government to move maize from surplus areas to local communities so that people can access it at much cheaper prices.

“So let the government offload the maize to the millers through FRA and sign contracts with them so that they supply mealie-meal at an agreed price because the maize is coming from government. The law of demand says that ‘when the demand is high, the price must be high as well.’ There is also need to move maize from surplus areas like Isoka, Mkushi, Kabwe, Kalulushi, and Luapula and move it to local communities so that you sell maize at a reasonable price,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hamududu urged government to make maize accessible in deficit areas.

“And government must also remove these politics for maize or from agriculture [because] agriculture is a business. There are no jobs for people and we killed our own economy because industries that the Kaunda government created were closed when we were liberalizing the economy. Factories are dead because how do you close a sawmill and you are exporting raw timber? We need factories and industries to create jobs and fight poverty. So, this pressure on maize is expected,” said Hamududu. “And the only thing for government to offload cheaper maize is to subsidize temporarily for the next six months and find a lasting solution by stimulating increased production of maize by delivering inputs on time, by improving extension services, and also by creating a financing mechanism for real agriculture. Secondly, government must not interfere in agriculture and they must let farmers make money. Government must just secure maize for domestic consumption to ensure lower prices but should not disturb the normal agriculture business.”