consumers in Zimbabwe have welcomed the reduction of prices of most basic
commodities, including "mealie-meal". But the situation hasn't improved for millers
who complain they're struggling with an influx of the staple starch from
neighboring countries. Mill owner Rita Gwaze lives in the Chinhoyi high density
suburb of Gadzema. She warns matters have gone from bad to worse over the past
few months. Business has deteriorated as increasing quantities of cheaper
mealie-meal produced abroad, flood the local market.
says, "What really changed is the way we sell our mealie-meal now compared to
last year. Last year there was not enough mealie-meal in the country so people
had to go to South Africa to buy it and our business was brisk. But the coming
of the commodity and the going down of the prices has put us out of business." Her
concerns have been echoed by miller Timothy Nyazika. He says buying maize from
the Grain Marketing Board, or GMB at US $400 per ton was too expensive. He
explains paying this much meant millers were a long way from recording any
profit as their expenses, including transport and grinding, continue to climb.
adds the GMB is only making matters worse. He wants the unity government to
remove soldiers and senior ZANU(PF) officials who run the parastatal in
Mashonaland West. But
others remain positive. Leornard Matsa believes local millers will soon see an
upswing in business, thanks to the poor quality of the imported mealie-meal.
way I see it is that the Zimbabwean miller is going to be [supported] by the
consumers because, yes, you find out we have mealie-meal from outside stocking
our shops these days. But if you go to
the people in the community they are quite unhappy--there is discontent. People
are saying that this mealie-meal we have in the shops right now does not last.
If you want to look at it in terms of how long it takes a family of six to use
a twenty kilogram pack it doesn't last. It moves very fast and after you have a
meal it's quite easy to get hungry too soon again," Nyazika says.
the same time consumers have little sympathy with millers. Most, like Peter
Kadewere, are only too happy the starch has returned to supermarket shelves, "The
good news is that the prices are changing in the right direction, fair and fine
but what I am saying is that prices have not gone down to the level where
everyone is comfortable."
miller Leonard Matsa says it's the government's duty to protect the industry. He
says, "It is very important that the government protect industries everywhere
in the world and Zimbabwe is no exception. But you are aware our industry was
not putting the same goods in the shops right, where they were able to
manufacture something it made more sense to export so you cannot put a wall to
goods not coming into the country when you don't have anything. The way I
understand is that this inclusive government has resolved to open the
floodgates of these imported goods into Zimbabwe as an interim measure to fill
up the shelves so that people can eat."