It is without doubt that strides towards reducing the cost of mealie meal have been made by the Patriotic Front (PF) government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock.
Recently, the government through the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) offloaded maize onto the domestic market at a discounted price of K65 from the previous price of K76 per 50kg bag in an attempt to influence reduction in mealie meal prices. Government has also held negotiation meetings with milling companies to see how best this can be actualized.
Citizens were highly expectant when the government announced that this would lead to a reduction in mealie meal prices by K4 even though marginal. This is also at the backdrop of a 2014 maize bumper harvest that Zambia experienced. Despite these measures, the expected price reduction has not been fully realized. The JCTR’s Basic Needs Basket for Lusaka for March 2015 shows an increase in average mealie meal prices by K1.15 per 25kg bag. According to the JCTR’s Basic Needs Basket Mpika and Luanshya are two other towns that have also recorded an average increase of mealie meal prices of K6.04 and K0.38 respectively. In some areas, mealie meal prices have remained static. For instance in Chipata, Chinsali and Kasama prices still averaged K81, K80 and K74.60 per 25Kg bag respectively. In Livingstone, Choma, Kitwe and Mansa mealie meal prices have slightly reduced from the previous month of February by K1.08, K2.38, K1.32 and K2.05 respectively.
The JCTR is concerned about the current state of mealie meal prices and the cost of living in general. The cost of living for the month of March 2015 as measured by JCTR’s Basic
Needs Basket (BNB) for an average family of five living in Lusaka is K3, 797.55. This shows an increase of K29.87 as compared to February’s BNB which stood at K3, 767.68. The increase in the BNB is mainly attributed to the increase in prices of the following food items; Beans and Beef which increased by K11.61 and K3.00 respectively. In contrast, other commodities showed decrease in price namely, Charcoal, Tomatoes and Vaseline.
The JCTR would like to appeal to government to implement comprehensive package of measures that will effectively address the high cost of living in general and the high mealie meal prices in particular. Government should for instance speed up the setting up of milling plants in rural areas and also offer incentives to local business entrepreneurs to set up milling plants. This will not only result in mealie meal price reduction but promote local business ownership and sustainability. Government must also work with various stakeholders towards reviewing and diversifying the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) to make it more efficient in reaching the intended beneficiaries-the poor and guaranteeing that the Programme indeed achieves its purpose of poverty reduction.