(Unedited for this blog)
MILLERS NEED TO COLLABORATE WITH STAKEHOLDERS
The United Liberal Party (ULP) is calling on government to play a greater role in the production and marketing of maize in order to help stabilize the liberalized market system in the milling industry. Government needs to introduce legislation that will stop deliberate market distortions and to protect consumers of maize-meal.
We are not calling for the reintroduction of price controls but legislation that will compel millers to declare stocks of maize in their shades on a monthly basis. Compelling millers to declare maize stocks will help the Ministry of Agriculture to get the correct picture in terms of the availability of maize in the country and adequately prepare for any back-up supplies that may be required.
Millers as handlers of a strategic commodity and a staple for this country need to seriously coordinate their activities with government to avoid the shortage of maize and un-necessary price hikes. Maize as a strategic commodity needs to be jointly handled by all stakeholders including farmers, millers of maize-meal and the government.
Millers should also help to stop the exploitation of small-scale farmers by briefcase buyers who are in most cases are selling the maize to millers of maize-meal. Millers can systematically help stop the abuse of the open market system of marketing maize by buying directly from the small-scale farmers to avoid the middlemen who exploit the farmers.
The poorest in our communities are the hardest hit by the break in the supply chain as a result of lack of proper communication between the millers and the small-scale farmers; the poor spend the highest portion of their income on food and with meagre budgets already overstretched they cannot be expected to keep on absorbing high prices of maize-meal.
Considering the five most widely consumed food types in Zambia, maize meal, white sugar, tea, milk and bread in terms of very poor consumers, maize-meal contributes about 54 percent of energy intake. Reduced consumption of maize meal is likely to affect the daily energy intake among the poorest of our population.
If not handled properly the issue of maize-meal prices can destabilize the relative peace we are enjoying. All past riots have been centred on high prices of food including maize-meal.
Hon. Sakwiba Sikota SC
United Liberal Party (ULP)
May 10, 2010