Zambia’s Lungu says to protect consumers as maize meal prices jump

2015-10-16 17:22
Edgar Lungu. (File: AP)

Edgar Lungu. (File: AP)

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Lusaka - Zambia's government will intervene in the market to protect consumers after traders hiked maize meal prices following a sharp slide in the kwacha currency, President Edgar Lungu said late on Thursday.

Traders in Lusaka have hiked the price of a 25kg bag of maize meal, the country's main staple food, to 80 kwacha ($6.87) from 65 kwacha after the Millers Association of Zambia said last week its members would raise their prices by 10 to 15 kwacha per 25kg bag due to high input costs.

The kwacha went into freefall in September, driving up import costs, as a global slide in commodity prices sent the price of Zambia's huge copper exports to a one-month low.

But Lungu said in an address to farmers that maize price increases were not justified because their production costs had not risen.

"Let me assure the nation that the government will undertake measured interventions to protect the consumer from unjustified price hikes of essential commodities such as mealie meal," Lungu said, without specifying the measures.

The announcement is likely to go down well with voters ahead of the next presidential and parliamentary elections, which must be held by September 2016.

Lungu said cartels should not be allowed to influence prices in the market, while Zambia National Farmers' Union president Evelyn Nguleka said it was surprising that maize millers of different sizes, capacities and efficiencies had agreed on a uniform price hike.

Allan Sakala, chairman of the Millers Association of Zambia, said that millers had not yet implemented the hike but that the price of maize meal would clearly have to rise after the price of maize, the main ingredient, rose to 110 kwacha per 50kg bag from 75 kwacha.

"I don't think it needs a rocket scientist to understand that once the price of the major input goes up, prices have to rise," Sakala told Reuters.

Read more on:    edgar lungu  |  zambia  |  southern africa

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