Agriculture Minister Michael Katambo says his Ministry is closely monitoring maize stock levels to ensure that the country has sufficient grain to last us until the next harvest.
Mr. Katambo said his Ministry is not allowing the export of maize and maize products and other wings of government are working with the ministry to ensure that all available stocks remain in the country.
He said smuggling is a serious threat to national food security as it has the potential of creating maize shortages and higher mealie meal prices in the country.
And Mr. Katambo said in a statement that based on the analysis conducted by the ministry, some business houses have been taking advantage of the situation and are adding an abnormal mark upon the wholesale price or rather than the order price of mealie meal.
He says some have been adding between K3 to K4 per 25 kg bag of mealie meal, whereas others are adding more than K50 per 25 kg bag of mealie meal.
Mr. Katambo said this is the major challenge that government is currently addressing and his Ministry has been engaging millers, and from the discussions, millers have agreed to meet this week and strategize on how they can bring the wholesale price of mealie meal closer to consumers.
Meanwhile, Mr Katambo says his ministry has done an analysis that shows that offloading maize by FRA to millers does not benefit consumers.
He said FRA needs to offload huge quantities of maize to have an impact on mealie meal prices a situation that is not sustainable and will deplete the much needed strategic reserves.
Mr Katambo said the government is aware that there are some market players and some sections of society who have caught onto the habit of requesting for supplies from FRA strategic reserves under the pretext that the stocks will reduce mealie meal prices for consumers.
He, however, said despite accessing strategic reserves cheaply, it has not translated into low mealie meal prices.
Mr Katambo said the FRA has very limited stocks, which need to be offloaded prudently and in anticipation of any supply challenges that may arise after February 2020.
He has indicated that the lasting solution to high mealie meal prices is to increase maize production and the ministry is working closely with maize industry stakeholders to ensure they begin to have bumper harvests starting from 2020 and beyond as directed by President Edgar Lungu.
And on the Farmer Input Support Programme, Mr Katambo said the distribution of inputs commenced way before the 1st of September, 2019 and is hopeful to complete this exercise within the month of September.
He said this is a remarkable achievement and has encouraged officers involved to continue working hard.