MAJOR supermarkets in Bulawayo and Matabeleland North provinces yesterday began selling mealie meal at subsidised prices.
Residents jostled in long queues to buy a 10kg bag of roller meal at $50kg and 20kg bag at $100. Before the Government injected a subsidy to cushion consumers recently the prices of the packages ranged between $100 and $250. Some outlets, like Greens Supermarket were yesterday selling a 10 kg bag for $38.
A snap survey by Chronicle revealed that supermarkets such as OK and Zapalala located along Jason Moyo Street and Greens Supermarket located along George Silundika Street had long queues as residents waited to purchase the more affordable basic commodity.
Some customers at OK Supermarket said they had been waiting for hours to get the mealie meal which they had been looking for, for nearly two weeks.
“We have been looking for this subsidised mealie-meal for more than two weeks and now that it is here we will wait for the supermarket to sell it. They told us that 60 tonnes had been brought here by two lorries which are offloading at the back of the shop,” said Ms Nonhlanhla Moyo.
Another woman who preferred anonymity and had two 20 and two 50 kilogramme bags of roller meal said she was lucky to buy the mealie- meal in the morning at the affordable price.
“Mealie-meal is very scarce and people in the rural areas are really suffering. Now that I managed to secure this much, it means I will be able to feed my family back at home,” she said.
Grain Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) spokesperson, Mr Garikai Chaunza, declined to comment on the quantities availed to the market, saying only the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development could do so.
“The national total consumption per month is 32 000 tonnes. As of now the Ministry of Finance and Grain Marketing Board (GMB) are the ones who are working hand in hand with millers and I cannot comment on the quantity but the Ministry of Finance can,” said Mr Chaunza.
The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Mr George Guvamatanga, declined to comment.
On Saturday, Government started rolling out the subsidy programme to all licensed grain millers and has made advance payment for this month as it moves to stabilise mealie-meal prices.
President Mnangagwa had to intervene to reverse an earlier decision to remove the subsidy on grain, which had prompted the milling industry to increase the prices of mealie meal beyond the reach of many.
The price of a 10 kg bag of roller meal was increased from between $50 and $60 to $100 or more following the removal of the subsidy thereby sparking widespread consumer outcry.
To kick-start the roller meal subsidy programme, Treasury has committed to paying the subsidy for this month in advance. Thereafter, monthly subsidy payments would be paid post verification of monthly production of roller meal, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development said in a statement recently.
The operational modalities of the roller meal subsidy programme, it further noted, will be constantly reviewed in consultation with all relevant stakeholders to ensure transparency, accountability, efficiency and effective.
Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs Minister, Cde Richard Moyo, said retailers have started selling subsidised mealie-meal in the province. He said subsidising mealie-meal would ensure accessibility of the product to everybody.
“We are disappointed that some people are already hoarding the same commodity and want to sell this at in the parallel market at exorbitant prices, taking advantage of the plight of the poor, especially in rural areas. We discourage this because it worsens the plight of the people,” he said.
Before the subsidy, he said people were struggling to get food but Government was giving them assistance targeted at vulnerable groups. “At first we were targeting the less priviledged but Government now is including everyone and has the food for work programme to alleviate hunger while promoting development.
“The price of mealie meal has been reduced to $50 now and this will greatly cushion ordinary people in terms of food shortages,” he said.
Cde Moyo called on communities to resist bad practices and condemned businesses that seek to make mega profits out of people’s misery. He also said agricultural inputs have been given and challenged farmers to use them adequately amid reports that some were selling seed and fertiliser at cheaper price to merchants.
Source – Chronicle