Frustrated millers on warpath

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Bulawayo grain millers yesterday claimed the government had banned the importation of grain products including mealie-meal from neighbouring countries to promote local products.

Report by Blondie Ndebele

In a meeting with millers yesterday, Grain Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe deputy chairperson Thembinkosi Ndlovu said there were some people who were buying products from foreign markets yet the same products were available locally.

“We are supporting our own local farmers and if there is a crisis, we will then look for maize and not finished products from other countries,” he said.

“We believe our own local millers have the ability to produce good mealie-meal and our own agro-industry will suffer if we keep importing finished products from other countries.”

During the meeting, millers complained that they had lost their market, as most of the wholesalers ordering mealie-meal from them were now sourcing it from South Africa.

“We do not want people who think about money at the expense of the welfare of our local industries,” he said. “We have nothing against any foreign products. We are not banning trade between countries, but we are talking of an industry that must be regulated.”

Ndlovu said there were other companies that obtained licences to import mealie-meal into the country, amid revelations that the State was likely to face serious food shortages due to poor rains.

He said all the licences that were still valid had been suspended with immediate effect.

“Those companies must declare the imported mealie-meal they have now or they will be arrested,” he said. “We are working with the police to make sure that no imported goods are allowed into this country.”

Ndlovu said companies from outside the country that wanted to help ensure food security in the should bring grain and not finished products.

Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube yesterday said he was not aware of the new development and said Zimbabwe had an “obligation to open up our markets to others as they also open up their markets for our products”.

Efforts to get a comment from the Finance and Agriculture ministries were fruitless.