Government’s noble decision to provide subsidised roller meal to the vulnerable should be speedily implemented for the benefit of citizens.
Since the reinstatement of the subsidy on roller meal on December 5 last year, the product has largely not been available in most supermarkets countrywide, for one reason or another.
It has strangely taken long to sort out the challenges. Millers say one thing and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce another.
Meanwhile, people have to buy a 10kg bag of maize meal for more than $100, instead of $50.
The licensing of eight millers out of a possible 61 has been blamed for the shortage of subsidised roller meal, with the few packets produced finding their way into the hands of a few buyers, who in turn sell at exorbitant prices.
Of the eight licensed millers who have been receiving special maize allocations for milling into roller meal, two of them are huge, tried and tested, with massive capacity to produce.
But there are concerns that since both have head offices in Harare, other parts of the country will get supplies late, if at all, because all areas near the capital seem to be preferred to cut down on fuel costs.
This has led to calls for the decentralisation of participating millers to allow all provincial and district millers to play a part. There are fears that favouritism could have played a part in the selection of the eight millers, as some of them reportedly have limited capacity to deliver.
We expect that the announcement by Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza on Thursday of the requirements for millers wanting to participate in the programme will see more players coming in to ensure subsidised roller is readily available.
The country consumes 32 000 tonnes of roller meal per month, and the Government pledged to provide 40 000 tonnes of maize per month under the scheme, a development that will eliminate shortages if more players come on board.
Requirements for millers include application of expression of interest which should be lodged with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, registration with the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA), GMB, Zimra, Standard Development Fund and Government vendor number issued by Treasury, namely the Public Finance Management Vendor Number.
Prospective millers are also expected to present their grain milling licence, confirmation letter issued by the GMB, company certificate of incorporation and CR14, tax clearance certificate issued by Zimra.
All this should not take a week. Why we still have interested millers not participating is a mystery.
The paperwork announced by Dr Nzenza is not extraordinary. It cannot be the reason why some millers are not participating.
These are normal requirements for any company that does business with the Government.
It is expected that if more millers join the programme, especially from the districts and provinces, the roller meal subsidy programme will be a resounding success.
Apart from feeding the people, it will also empower all the millers.
But even after the selection of more millers, we recommend that regular meetings be held between the parties to review the progress.
This will ensure that millers do not unexpectedly stop milling for one reason or the other as that will expose consumers to expensive roller meal, most of which would have been corruptly sourced at the cheaper price.
We are encouraged by the meetings that have taken place between the Government and millers.
Whatever lessons are being learnt with the roller meal subsidy, should help ensure a smoother flow of other subsidies that are set to be introduced on other critical products.
At least there is clarity at the top that these subsidies are planned, budgeted for and targeted on the poor and vulnerable.
The Zimbabwe United Passenger Company(ZUPCO) transport subsidy has been a rolling success.
It is well appreciated by participating bus companies and the commuters. Its take off was not as difficult as the roller meal one, yet it is actually the more complicated one.
There is urgent need interrogate the bureaucratic procedures in the Ministry of Industry and Commerce to ensure that no one is deliberately frustrating roller meal subsidy either for personal gain or political reasons.
Maize meal is the staple food and its availability and at what costs tends to be political.