Farirai Machivenyika and Nesia Mhaka
The Small to Medium Millers Association of Zimbabwe (SMMAZ) is willing to partner Government in ensuring the availability of affordable maize meal on the market, an official has said.
The SMMAZ was formed late last year to cater for the interests of small and medium-scale players in the milling industry.
In a statement on Wednesday, SMMAZ interim chairman Mr Davis Muhambi said the association’s main focus was to ensure that small-scale millers played a bigger role in providing affordable maize-meal to the nation, especially at this point when there are shortages.
“Our primary goal or focus is to create an environment that is conducive for members’ businesses to realise their full potential in providing a service to the country which is not only commercial in nature, but humanitarian as well,” he said.
“We also intend to use our strategic contacts within the region and beyond to secure grain at reasonable prices. Ultimately the goal is to augment Government’s efforts to ensure that all citizens, especially vulnerable groups, have access to cheap and affordable maize meal.”
Government introduced a subsidy on roller meal in December last year, but the commodity has not been readily available in most retail outlets.
Mr Muhambi said plans were afoot to support farmers, as a long-term solution to the availability of grain in Zimbabwe.
“In future, participating in contract farming supported by an irrigation programme is very important so that there is sustainable production of grains including maize and wheat for our members.
“Grains are the bulk of our raw materials, they are our business. We are looking into models of financing these programmes with both local and international partners; we are taking these and other such initiatives one day at a time,” he said.
Mr Muhambi said SMMAZ was formed to represent the interests of small scale millers who have no effective representation in the market.
He said it was therefore imperative that small to medium sized millers be given a home and an identity that portrayed them as such, riding on the global perception, understanding and hallmarks of what SME’s are today.
“This would then put us on a platform that allows our stakeholders to easily identify with us so that we can articulate the common struggles faced by millers in this category more effectively,” he said.
Meanwhile, the National Business Council of Zimbabwe has expressed concern at the unavailability of the subsidised roller meal on the market.
“The NBCZ is deeply disturbed by the current events in the country where subsidised roller meal has found its way on the black market where the cost has gone beyond the reach of intended beneficiaries,” NBCZ executive chairman Dr Keith Guzah said.
“Government’s intentions in coming up with the roller meal subsidy was a noble idea by all accounts as it was meant to cushion and mitigate the already burdened and struggling populace. Whilst the NBCZ welcomes the Ministry of Industry and Commerce’s move in trying to manage the situation, we strongly believe that an absolute buy-in from the business community and civil society will buttress Government efforts in arresting the situation and close the loopholes.”