Local grain millers say they have contingency measures throughout the value chain to ensure adequate mealie-meal stocks to feed the nation.
The assurance by the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) comes in the wake of ‘artificial’ shortages of the staple in most supermarkets and retail shops across the country.
GMAZ Chairman, Tafadzwa Musarara, said the 2024 national budget pronouncements by Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube, which hiked taxes, had triggered supply chain disruptions that were now, however, self-correcting following a downward review of the taxes.
“After Christmas, the country started experiencing artificial shortages of mealie-meal emanating from 2024 budget pronouncements that disrupted the economy and later corrected.
“We are back in business and have resumed supplies. We have talked to retailers to see the status of the supply situation. The issue of availability is correcting itself,” Musarara told the media while on a tour of shops in Chinhoyi, Mashonaland West province.
“GMAZ has met retailers and some of the challenges they expressed are that whilst the supplies are there from millers, they (shops) don’t have the working capital to pay for the product which is sold on a cash-on-delivery basis.
“So consumers must know that some of the stockouts in some shops are not as a result of non-availability of the product by millers, but perhaps that shop doesn’t have money to pay for the stock.”
Musarara said the assessment tour in Chinhoyi established that informal and small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) had mealie-meal stocks, which were, however, being sold way above the stipulated 10-12,% profit margins.
Consumers need protection from profiteering retailers, who must adhere to the stipulated pricing mechanisms, he added.
Major retailers such as OK and TM did not have mealie-meal in stock but were expected to get deliveries last week.
“Formal shops are stocked out on account of payments. So if they make good on their payments, millers will continue to supply,” Musarara said.
Demand for the staple food has increased in the wake of fears of an impending El Nino-induced drought and a jump in prices of bread and rice.
“The demand for mealie-meal is high, there is so much panic buying by individuals and institutions such as boarding schools and tertiary institutions.
“The panic buying is informed by fear of the drought and continuing increase of bread prices and rice. For starch, households have to look for an affordable alternative, which is ordinarily mealie-meal.
“The solid arrangement we have ensures we have mealie-meal up to the next harvest. The local market is adequately and sufficiently provided for by local millers,” said the GMAZ boss, who is on a whirlwind national tour to assess the product supply situation.