THE Millers Association of Zambia says mealie-meal prices will be increased owing to the difficult economic conditions prevailing in the country.

Commenting on the ongoing 2015 crop marketing season, MAZ president Allan Sakala said millers were currently facing challenges in purchasing maize from farmers such as transport costs, which would see mealie-meal prices around the country pushed upwards.

“The increased load-shedding has taken a toll on the milling capacities. And with reduced milling capacities, to compensate, we have to increase the prices. You look at the transport costs, electricity tariffs, which have just been increased, water tariffs, everything is going up! We, just like any other industry will respond accordingly and increase the price,” Sakala said in an interview.

“Everywhere, the prices will have to change and the ones who will be most affected are those in places where the distances from the milling plants are much longer, which are rural areas but even the town dwellers will have to bear the brunt of increased costs of production.”

He said while the margin of price hikes could not presently be determined, prices had to be adjusted upwards as millers were incurring transport for maize purchases from farmers.

“What has been happening is most of this maize the farmers are demanding for K75 is not at the door step of the miller, so the miller has to incur transport costs to move it from wherever it is. And the transport costs are ranging between K10 and K25 per [50kg] bag; that makes the maize come to about K85, K90,” Sakala added.

“If you go to the Copperbelt, the prices have escalated to K80, maize bran is about K38; it is quite tough for the people to eat, so this economic situation, we find it very, very difficult.”

Asked if the government’s solar-powered hammer mills under the Presidential Milling Initiative would reduce mealie-meal prices, Sakala welcomed the move but said the project was unlikely to impact on the prices in the short-term.
“If they are also participating in buying the same maize at K75, we don’t see how the prices would suddenly reduce,” said Sakala.

The current national average price of a 25kg mealie-meal bag remains at K68.90 and K52.91 for breakfast and roller meal respectively, according to the Central Statistical Office (CSO).
But Chirundu retailers are already selling the commodity at around K72 per 25kg bag, with a 25kg bag of roller meal costing K54 from K50 on account of the depreciating kwacha and hike in transportation costs.