Restaurant owners in Lusaka have complained that the escalating mealie meal prices is threatening their businesses, as clients insist on “bevula” which culminates into a loss.

A market survey in selected retailers found a 25Kg breakfast bag of the ‘Mothers Pride’ brand selling at K150 in Spar Arcades while a 25 kg bag of ‘Pembe’ breakfast in Pick n’ Pay Society Mall was selling at K145.

This is despite government’s plea to millers and retailers to cut the staple food prices.

In an interviews, a restaurant trader in Lusaka’s Nyumba Yanga area complained that the business was no longer profitable owing to the escalating mealie meal prices.

making losses and not able to increase prices for fear of losing customers, who don’t seem to understand their position considering the high mealie meal prices.

“We are still selling, but for you to realise what you have invested is really a challenge because the customers want a huge portion without considering that you are running at a loss. On top of that, they want ‘bevula’ (extra nshima portion) and [even if we can’t afford] we give them because we also want to earn something at the end of the day. And at this point, it’s hard for us to increase prices because the customers will stop buying and that will mean we will close the restaurant, which can’t be an option. We increase prices on an annual basis; if we increase now, then we would have chased our customers. So, we are barely surviving; things are really hard right now. We really hope something will be done soon,” a trader identified as Ruth told News Diggers!

Another trader, Agness, lamented that the heightened load-shedding schedule, coupled with high mealie meal prices, had exacerbated the situation.

“To top it up, we have to throw some of the relish that we buy in advance because of this load shedding because it goes bad in the fridge. Food is going to waste, especially with the increased hours. Just today (Monday), we threw T-bone, beef stew, those would have been sold, but we are wasting our capital, it’s really bad! Mealie meal has really made business hard, prices of everything are really on the rise! And these customers don’t understand; they want the same portions, but we are the ones running at a loss and it’s really difficult to get by. Because right now, with everything going up, if we try to hike prices as well, we will be killing ourselves in return so we just have to manage,” lamented Agness.

When contacted for a comment on the continued rise in the price of the commodity, Katambo said he would only be giving updates to the nation on mealie meal prices every fortnight as directed by Vice-President Inonge Wina.

“We told you, you heard from the Acting President, Her Honour the Vice-President (Inonge Wina) the directive that was given to the Ministry of Agriculture, we will not be giving information anyhow, we will be giving updates according to how we have been guided, so next Tuesday (September 10), watch out for a statement form the Ministry of Agriculture. We have been told to give those updates every fortnight, so next Tuesday, we will be giving an update,” said Katambo.