The Acting Minister of Information and Media and Chief Government Spokesperson, Hon. Makozo Chikote, MP, released a statement addressing recent debates concerning the provision of affordable mealie meal by the Zambia National Service (ZNS).
The Zambian government emphasized its responsibility to ensure that staple food, such as mealie meal, remains affordable for its citizens. The government explained that the rise in mealie meal prices was driven by an increase in the purchase price of maize, from K180 in the previous year to K280 in the current year. This price hike in maize had a direct impact on mealie meal prices, as maize is a key ingredient.
The increase in maize prices was part of a strategic effort to encourage commercial farmers to re-engage in maize production. Many had stopped producing maize due to its unprofitability, leading to a decline in domestic maize production.
With demand rising both locally and internationally, the government aimed to boost maize production and, ultimately, create a surplus that could be exported to other countries.
The government also planned to utilize the funds generated from exporting surplus maize through the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to subsidize the cost of maize for the Zambian population. In the short term, various measures were put in place to alleviate the impact of the high cost of living on vulnerable citizens.
These measures included the social cash transfer program for the most vulnerable, free education to help families save on school fees, the partial withdrawal of NAPSA (National Pension Scheme Authority) to encourage more people to engage in maize farming, a loan facility to support maize production, CDF (Constituency Development Fund) bursaries, and the reintroduction of meal allowances for students.
The government reaffirmed its commitment to improving the living standards of the Zambian people, emphasizing the importance of both short-term and long-term strategies to mitigate the impact of rising mealie meal prices.