Millers Association of Zambia president Andrew Chintala has urged citizens to buy mealie meal from designated milling outlets to avoid being exploited by unscrupulous retailers.

And Chintala has noted that the highest price of a 25 kilogram bag of mealie meal among millers is K115, explaining that the current prices on the market are as a result of people trying to make abnormal profits.

Speaking when he featured on Hot fm’s Frank on Hot, Tuesday morning, Chintala however urged citizens who cannot afford breakfast meal to try roller meal which is more nutritious.

“Currently I think the most expensive brand you can get on the market is K115. You are saying K140, but I would encourage you to buy mealie meal from designated trading places and the K140, K130 we are talking about, this is breakfast. I would encourage you if you can afford a bag at K100 or even less, why don’t you buy roller meal which is more nutritious. So really, let’s not personalise these things, we are all committed and being patriotic and trying to find a solution to what we have. We are in business yes, obviously we would like to maximise profit but this is our stable food, this is a very sensitive industry that we are involved in. So this is why we feel what you are feeling. So I would encourage you try and access these commodities from designated depots so that you avoid being exploited,” he advised.

“What we have done, I think one of the interventions we have put in place as millers is that we noticed that the prices that we the millers are offloading on the market, there are other players that are coming there. So if they move this bag from the factory, they push it on to the open market, they are putting abnormal profits and one of the interventions we have put in place, some of these millers have opened outlets and depots closer to the communities so that we can remove such practices on the market which have actually been pushing the commodity higher.”

He explained that the reason behind the hike in the price of mealie meal was the prices of maize which were on the rise as a result of speculative buying by players in the sector.

“It’s important to appreciate that the biggest component in the production costs in as far as production of mealie meal is concerned is maize itself which is a raw material in this case, now obviously other factors could be electricity, labor, that is human capital, cost of packaging which is bags and other things that come in to place. Now what really pushed the situation to where we are today is the high price at which millers have been procuring the maize grain from the open market. You may recall that when we started the maize marketing session for this year, we started at K2200 per metric tonne, that’s what millers were paying farmers which translated to K110 per 50 kg bag. So just a month after the start of the marketing season, the prices of maize started escalating, I think almost on a daily basis until we got to a place where we were paying K185 per 50 kg bag of maize which translates to K33,00 per metric tonne. You can see the price shift in terms of the raw material and this is what had actually pushed the price of mealie this high,” Chintala explained.

He however called on citizens to appreciate other foods grown in the country.

“This is why it’s important that we educate, we have got a duty both the government and ourselves to try and encourage our citizens to try and appreciate other food crops that we produce. I don’t think if at all you don’t have maize today, or the country doesn’t have maize, the country and citizens will starve to death. We have got plenty of food that we can feed on except that mealie meal is our staple food but if government or the president was to come and say ‘reduce the prices’, first of all I think the players would respond to that because of the executive powers. But again there’re consequences to that, there will not be this industry tomorrow. So I think the President would equally be mindful because if such a measure is taken, then all you are trying to do is shut down the industry because obviously that will hurt that investor, that miller, tomorrow you will not have money to buy the grain and continue operating. And I don’t see that happening in Zambia,” he said.

He noted that government was not supplying any subsidised maize to millers.

“Government is not supplying any subsidised maize to the millers, if at all government is supplying maize or mealie meal, it was through the disaster management and mitigation unit to the Southern Province and not really to any commercial miller. We are not selling at a subsidised price; we are selling according to the market, said Chintala.