Subsidized mealie-meal price hike looms
THE Grain Marketing Board (GMB) is reportedly left with maize stocks for only three days while the price of roller meal is set to increase after the parastatal hiked the price of maize by 77% last week. Last week, the GMB raised maize grain prices to $12 329 up from $6 958 per tonne at a time the government was ordering businesses to reduce prices of basic commodities to prices obtaining in the market as of March 25. The price increase was eff ected without consultations with millers, who now want prices of the subsidised staple food to go up by close to 100%.
A leaked letter by the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) general manager Lynnette Veremu to the association’s national executive committee shows that millers want to hike the prices from $72 to $260 per 10kg packet of subsidized roller meal. “The new price of maize has been revised upwards without increasing current subsidy of $72 per 10 kg bag.
Should millers proceed to adjust prices of maize meal accordingly at the current subsidy level, the new prices will be, miller to retail, $230,61 and retail to customers, $260,59,” the letter, dated April 28, read. “The price of maize has moved from $6 958 00 from Grain Marketing Board to $12 329.72 which is a 77,2% upward movement.” The circular added: “GMB maize collections are now 90% from Bulawayo, which means millers in the Midlands, Masvingo and Harare are picking from Bulawayo, increasing the transport cost by $1 833. 00. “In light of the aforementioned, the prices of mealie-meal has moved from $135 00 per 10kg bag to $303.11 per bag which is 124% upward.”
The country has been plagued by mealie-meal shortages since last year following a season of drought. However, the situation worsened last December after Finance minister Mthuli Ncube decided to scrap subsidies on the staple food. Following an outcry, the government was forced to re-introduce the subsidies for roller meal to keep the prices under control. There has, however, been haggling between government and the millers after the latter complained of politicisation and discrimination in the subsidy programme.
The millers have been going across the country selling subsidised roller meal in residential areas to reduce human traffi c into central business districts during the lockdown period. Veremu added: “In light of lack of new subsidy and fear of consumer backlash, millers have decided to half supplies until the government gives direction. Regrettably, this new development violates the price moratorium agreement currently in subsistence.” Well-placed sources told NewsDay yesterday that apart from citizens being confronted by new prices, the country’s food situation could be dire as the GMB is reported to have stocks only enough for three days.
GMB spokesperson Muriel Zemura yesterday requested written questions which were not responded to by the time of going to print, but a well-placed source said: “The GMB now has stocks only to last the country for three days. Something needs to be done as quickly as possible.” Contacted for comment, GMAZ spokesperson Garikai Chaunza confi rmed the possibility of maize meal price hike. “The price of maize went up before we were advised of the new subsidy level of $72.50 per 10kg. Taking into account the collection of maize from Bulawayo, the cost of maize meal will go up signifi cantly,” Chaunza said. “I am not at liberty to disclose the statistics at the moment suffi ce to say that negotiations with government are underway.”