Government has raised the price of subsidised roller meal to $70 for a 10kg packet to manage speculation by retailers that resulted in shortages.
Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube who last year said he does not know the price of bread said he is ‘ pleased’ to announce the new price in a statement yesterday.
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He said the roller meal subsidy, which was introduced in December last year to protect vulnerable groups from rising costs of maize meal, was no longer serving the purpose due to corruption.
Some retailers have been accused of releasing a few bags of maize-meal to the public and transferring the remainder to the black market where a 10kg bag fetched between $120 and $200.
Said Prof Ncube: “In view of the above, I am pleased to announce that Government has reviewed upwards the subsidised price from $50 to $70 per 10kg bag of roller meal against the prevailing market price of the product.
“Implementation of the new subsidy price is with immediate effect. Government will announce a strengthened targeting system in due course such that deserving vulnerable citizens, as intended by the subsidy policy, benefit.”
The new price coincided with a statement issued earlier by the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) saying $50 was no longer sustainable for a 10kg bag of maize-meal due to high costs of accessing maize outside the country and the attendant extra transport costs.
GMAZ chairman Mr Tafadzwa Musarara said due to drought millers were getting 20 000 tonnes of maize a month from the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) against the previous supply of 40 000 tonnes per month and so had to import the balance to meet demand.
“We are getting limited stocks from GMB and we also have our imports from neighbouring countries, but we are unable to sell them because the subsidy price was computed using maize from GMB.
“Now we have imported maize which is more expensive than the price of $4 000 per tonne we are getting from GMB,” he said.
Contacted for comment after Government announced the new roller meal price, GMAZ said it was yet to get formal communication, adding that a meeting had been scheduled with officials from the Ministry of Finance.
Mr Musarara said 50 000 tonnes of maize were on the way from South Africa, imported using free funds.
He said the demand for maize-meal had shot up due to the rise in prices of other products like bread, potatoes, pumpkins and green mealies. This resulted in families eating more maize-meal.
Millers say they require 80 000 tonnes of maize a month for the production of super refined and roller meal to meet demand.
Mr Musarara said GMAZ efforts were complementing the Government, but said they were facing challenges in transporting the maize from South Africa and had asked South African trade unions, through the Zimbabwean embassy, to allow overtime work so that maize is delivered on time.
In December last year, the Government allowed those with free funds to import maize and wheat.
Recently, National Business Council of Zimbabwe president Dr Keith Guzah said they had formed a taskforce to interrogate the supply chain to curb maize-meal shortages.
“We are having shortages of mealie meal across the country and we are here trying to interrogate the reason why we are facing mealie meal shortages.
“The price tag that was put by Government is not the price that the commodity is being sold at in other supermarkets and we want to understand how that is possible.
“We have set a taskforce that will investigate how the mealie-meal is being managed from the millers to the consumers and the black market,” he said.-ZP