May 03, 2016

In the last four months, the price of mealie-meal has increased drastically with people in some parts of the country paying up to K120 for a bag. This poses serious issues for a country where over 80 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line.

The Government of Zambia has rightly raised concerns about rising mealie-meal prices, particularly with respect to the millers who receive government subsidized maize. Zambian citizens are increasingly worried about the cost of the country’s staple food.

In order to better understand how mealie meal prices are affecting ordinary Zambian citizens, Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) Lusaka undertook a nationwide survey.

The findings reveal that more than 50 per cent of Zambians consume mealie-meal more than once a week, with over half of those consuming mealie-meal daily. However, the survey also shows that despite its high use among Zambian house-holds, more than 80 per cent of the people interviewed felt that the price of mealie meal is too high.

Alarmingly the survey indicated that 42 per cent of Zambians said that they could not afford to continue to purchase this staple food. This inability to continue to afford mealie in the future is particularly high among lower income groups: according to CUTS’ survey, of the households that reported that they earned less than K500 a month, 46 percent said they did not think that they would be able to afford to continue to use mealie-meal.

In order to stabilise mealie-meal prices across the country, the government has undertaken measures to attempt to alleviate the mealie-meal situation. These have included restricting the export of maize for a week earlier this year where the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) and the security wings were tasked to monitor movement of maize within the country and at all border points. The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, Hon. Julius Shawa further indicated that the government would issue a Statutory Instrument to ensure that a legal instrument would back the measures taken to safeguard national food security.

However, despite these measures, mealie meal prices continue to rise. 85% of respondents to the survey said that mealie meal prices have actually gone up in recent months. CUTS therefore urge the government to take steps that will deliver meaningful results to the average citizen.