Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba has told Zambians to brace for harder times because mealie prices are not expected to reduce any time soon as the economy is only expected to get worse.
And Mwamba, popularly known as GBM, says his milling company will not reduce mealie meal prices once the firm resumes operations in two months’ time.
GBM, the former UPND vice-president who rejoined the ruling PF a few months ago, said in an interview that there was nothing much the government could do about skyrocketing prices of mealie meal as they are dictated by the cost of maize.
Prices of the staple commodity have significantly increased to a national average of K120.69 per 25Kg breakfast bag as at August 2019, compared to K79.39 in the same month last year, according to Central Statistical Office (CSO) data.
in some outlets, the commodity is selling at K150 per 25kg bag, thereby negatively impacting the family food basket.
The former defence minister and Kasama Central PF member of parliament said the skyrocketing mealie meal prices should not be politicised because they have been necessitated by the partial droughts experienced in many parts of the country.
“We haven’t yet resumed our operations at the milling plant, we are just busy trying to mobilise and organise ourselves and hopefully next month-end, we should start our operations. But I will tell you something, the rise in mealie meal prices is something that is beyond a country or beyond a region. The price increase in mealie meal has been necessitated by the partial droughts in most of the countries in the region. So, there hasn’t been enough output of maize. So, whether one likes it or not, it’s not political and there is nothing that we can do. This is a national calamity, which has befallen us, which has brought about the high prices of maize and subsequently making the mealie meal prices high. For example, in India, if there was drought in India, does anyone expect the price of rice in India to be the same? Of course not! So, this is something that is very unfortunate and there is very little that we can do as a region,” GBM said.
“Congo (DR) is affected; Tanzania is affected; Malawi is affected; Zimbabwe is affected and part of South Africa. So, bringing down the price of mealie meal is not possible, in fact, we should brace [ourselves] for hard times. Mealie meal prices will continue to go up because the price of maize is high.”
He further said GBM Milling Company is not expected to offer cheaper mealie meal prices once operations resume because maize is being bought at a high price.
Asked if the GBM mealie meal brand would be sold at a reduced price to help consumers who could not afford high prices from other companies, GBM said he did not expect that to happen as the company would equally be subjected to buying expensive maize on the market.
“I don’t expect that because we are going to buy maize at that time, which is going to be called an economic price, and I don’t think we are able to do anything to reduce the price of mealie meal, we can’t. Go to Malawi; they are in the same situation; go to Zimbabwe, Congo, they are in a similar situation,” GBM said.
Meanwhile, GBM observed that there was need to employ new farming practices to mitigate the effects of climate change.
“All this has been caused by climate change; it is just something which is beyond anyone’s control. So, what we should start doing as a country to prepare for such challenges in future is to just adopt other farming techniques like irrigation. I think this is what the government should encourage farmers. This was done in the era of late president Levy Mwanawasa; it was done, though it’s also expensive because it means we have also to use electricity, so still more, it will be expensive. But at least we are better off having maize than not having maize, the price may somehow be controlled,” observed Mwamba.