MATABELELAND grain millers have welcomed the government’s move to ban the importation of mealie meal, saying the development is likely to revive the milling industry which has seen several entrepernuers closing shop.
There is anticipation in the cut-throat milling sector in the region that some of the millers who closed shop could reopen soon as they had collapsed due to stiff competition arising from cheap imports flooding the market.
Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) Matabeleland chapter president Thembinkosi Ndlovu told Southern Eye Business yesterday that the milling industry was optimistic of an improvement and recovery of business.
“We are optimistic that milling companies which went out of business will reopen following the government ban of mealie imports. We have been lobbying government for a long time and our calls have finally been heard and we are thankful and grateful for that,” he said.
The government early this week announced that it had banned mealie meal imports to protect the milling industry as well as promote local production.
Last month GMAZ petitioned the government to ban mealie meal imports.
According to a position paper submitted to the Agriculture and Mechanisation ministry seen by Southern Eye Business, Matabeleland millers said they had the capacity to mill 60 000 metric tonnes of maize in a month against consumption of 48 000 metric tonnes.
GMAZ said the government had initially agreed to ban mealie meal imports last year, but had been reluctant to enforce the ban adding that the continued issue of import licences was pushing local millers out of business.
The association recently announced that 27 companies suspended operations in Matabeleland in the past fortnight due to a shortage of grain in the region after government capped maize imports at 2 000 metric tonnes per month.
However, Agriculture Mechanisation and Irrigation Development deputy minister David Murapira said the cap has been temporarly suspended, but added that government was finalising a structure to completely ban the importation of maize.
He said his ministry was finalising a statutory instrument that will enforce contract farming and the ban on the importation of maize. But GMAZ recently told Southern Eye that member companies had in 2012 committed $25 million to finance maize and other grain contract farming but had withheld their funds after farmers failed to meet demands of the contracts largely due to unclear policies governing the scheme.
GMAZ said the Statutory Instrument (SI) 140 0f 2013, Agricultural Marketing Authority (Grain, Oilseed and Products) Regulations, regulating contract farming had loopholes which has seen farmers continuing with side marketing leaving millers who will have financed the scheme counting loses.