PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu says the national food security situation is under control hence there is no need for worry.
Commissioning the African Milling Limited expansion project in Lusaka yesterday, President Lungu however said there were players in the market who were hoarding maize under the pretext that they would realise exorbitant prices around January and February 2020.
He said such practices created artificial shortages resulting in high mealie-meal prices.
“My advice to such players perpetrating maize speculation, and hoarding is that they should desist from doing so, as this strategy is prone to fail. This is because government is in constant touch with farmers, millers and grain traders through the stocks monitoring committee under the Ministry of Agriculture,” he said.
President Lungu said through the stock monitoring committee, the government had regularly monitored the maize supply situation in the country to avoid food crisis.
He said the Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the Central Statistical Office had just concluded a rapid stocks assessment survey to establish the actual quantity of maize available in the country.
President Lungu said agriculture minister Michael Katambo would be announcing the actual national food supply situation in the country ahead of the 2020 harvest.
“I wish to assure that the national food security situation is under control hence there is no need for worry,” he said.
President Lungu said the expansion project by African Milling was expected to increase milling capacity to 506 metric tonnes of maize per day.
He said the expansion meant that the plant was to run at full capacity hence the need to address load shedding to ensure adequate maize meal supply.
President Lungu said the adequate and steady maize supply in the country would cushion the escalating mealie meal prices.
He said the government had been making frantic efforts to ensure maize production was improved in the current farming season.
President Lungu said the government had distributed farming inputs before the onset of rains to most areas in the country.
He urged all millers to emulate African Milling which was not only focusing on milling only, but also supply inputs to farmers.
President Lungu said in addition, the company operated a trading wing which buys maize and other products from farmers to ensure constant supply of raw materials for milling.
He said other millers should adopt that model to complement the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) efforts for cheap supplies.
“I wish to underscore that the days of millers depending on cheap maize from FRA are long gone. Therefore, millers are encouraged to buy maize from farmers. The Food Reserve Agency is meant to only store strategic reserves, as this is the primary purpose why the agency was established.
I appeal to millers who are not able to conduct maize buying on their own to instead sub-contract grain traders to procure on their behalf, President Lungu urged. “…Indeed, the developments taking place in the milling industry are a clear indication that the private sector is embracing government’s policies of promoting private sector development and value addition. The milling company I have been informed has invested over US $20 million. This is no mean achievement and it can only be made possible with the support of financial institutions.”
He said the government was resolved to transforming the agricultural industry with the involvement of all stakeholders in the sector.