The availability of subsidised maize-meal is expected to improve following the establishment of a taskforce to ensure transparent and equitable distribution of the product.
The taskforce will make follow-ups with retailers to curb diversion of the maize-meal to the black market.
This comes amid observations that even refined maize-meal was no longer readily available.
There is panic-buying, while connected individuals buy as many bags as they can and divert them to the black market each time deliveries are made.
At the black market, subsidised roller meal is selling for almost twice the gazetted $5o for a 10kg packet.
Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza told a Press conference yesterday that the maize-meal taskforce was headed by her deputy, Cde Raji Modi.
The subsidy for roller meal is paid directly to millers on proof that they have milled and delivered the meal. This means millers can get their maize from any source — GMB, private or import, as they buy it at market rates.
The switch from a GMB subsidy to a millers’ subsidy enabled millers to import their own 50 000 tonnes of maize from South Africa, whose first batch arrived in Bulawayo and awaits transportation to Harare.
Citizens have been calling on the Government to put in place strict measures to ensure all millers who get grain under the subsidy programme sell maize-meal at subsidised prices.
Dr Nzenza insisted that roller meal was available in many shops, but a survey carried out by The Herald in Harare yesterday showed otherwise.
She said the Government was working with key stakeholders like the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) and GMB on the issue.
“During the course of the holidays, there were some challenges as some companies were closed, resulting in the maize-meal shortage, which is still being experienced in some parts of the country,” said Dr Nzenza.
“To address the areas experiencing critical shortages and to ensure that maize-meal is available to all consumers, the Ministry of Industry
and Commerce is closely monitoring the subsidy programme in collaboration with the Confederation of Retailers Association and GMB and other key stakeholders.”
The taskforce has hit the ground running in Bulawayo, ensuring equitable distribution of the much sought after commodity.
“Already in Bulawayo, retailers have started receiving their maize-meal at affordable prices,” said Dr Nzenza.
The minister is in constant touch with GMB on grain allocations to millers to ensure the production of roller meal and its availability to consumers at affordable prices.
She appealed to consumers to avoid panic-buying and hoarding.
“We reiterate that none will go hungry as Government will ensure that we accelerate the importation programme,” said Dr Nzenza.
An attendant at OK First Street who refused to be named said maize-meal was not lasting more than a few hours on shelves as customers were scrambling for the commodity.
He attributed the shortage of the maize meal to consumers feeding the black market for profiteering from the subsidised product.
“There is just a huge demand for the mealie-meal whether it is the subsidised roller meal or the more expensive refined maize meal as you can see on the empty shelves,” he said.
A worker at Pick n Pay along Second Street said 300 bags of roller meal were delivered on Tuesday, but within 30 minutes they were gone.
“It is more of panic buying, really,” said the worker.
A mealie-meal supplier who supplies some restaurants in the city was forced to close down shop, owing to shortages.
Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe media and public relations manager Mr Garikai Chaunza yesterday said: “Maize has started moving from South Africa with the first batch having arrived in Bulawayo and we are calling upon local transporters to assist us move the grain.
“We are going to see huge volumes of maize grain consignments coming into the country until the situation stabilises.”