THE mealie-meal situation in the country is set to stabilise in the next three to five weeks following millers’ intervention to import close to 100 000 tonnes of maize using their free funds, an official has said.

Speaking to journalists in Bulawayo yesterday, Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (Gmaz) chairman, Tafadzwa Musarara said improved supplies of maize would be noticed as from next week.

“You may recall that early December last year, Cabinet made a decision to allow millers and other players to bring in maize into the country using free funds. Since then up to now, I’m glad to advise that we have put mechanisms in place to have maize coming into the country,” Musarara said.

“This maize is very key to complement the quantities that are coming also from GMB (Grain Marketing Board). This private sector initiative is meant to complement government’s efforts of ensuring food security at household levels.”

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Musarara said the country’s current maize demand, for commercial use, is 80 000 tonnes a month and they have signed up close to 100 000 tonnes of maize with 50 000 tonnes expected early next week.

“As grain millers association, we have aggregated our requirements and importing into the country the grain that we want starting next week using our free funds. We believe that as business the best way to kill that black market is flooding the market.”

“So with the maize imports that we are starting to receive next week, the situation, God willing, should stabilise in the next three to five weeks, but supplies will start to be noticed as from next week. The subsidy programme will also cover maize meal produced from imported maize,” he said.

“We had meetings with the Minister of Finance (Mthuli Ncube) last week and all is in place. We hope by the time the maize comes, the whole subsidy programme would have been reconfigured to cover for maize meal processed from imported maize.”

He said all maize meal would be sold through wholesalers and retailers.

Government is subsidising mealie-meal to ensure it remains affordable to the majority of Zimbabweans, but the facility is reportedly being abused by unscrupulous people who hoard and re-sell it for a profit on the black market.

Musarara said the subsidy programme, which started on a rocky note, had been fine-tuned.

“We are worried about the quantum of our products on the black market, especially here in Bulawayo and we are working with our colleagues.”

Speaking at the same event, Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president Denford Mutashu said going forward, the price of mealie-meal should be reviewed due to inflationary pressures.

“So far on roller meal, I think you are aware that it is being sold at $50, but again a process of re-engagement (is underway), especially given the fact that the operating environment has not been static as we would have anticipated,” he said.

“So our indication, thereof, is that the pricing has got to be reviewed time and again so that it is realistic and accommodates the other extra costs associated with running businesses.”