Am I the only person having difficulty believing Minister of Agriculture Allan Chiyembekeza that the country has enough maize to last up to April but the 20kg ration in Admarc depots will remain in force? A simple question, sir: why ration when there is enough of the commodity in the country?
For starters, the good minister announced this week government has procured 41 000 metric tonnes of maize on top of the 9 221 metric tonnes Admarc has in stock. Well and good that Chiyembekeza admitted there have been problems with how the initial stock was handled—a diplomatic way of acknowledging that his ministry botched the handling of maize bought locally as well as from Zambia.
Mid last year Chiyembekeza announced his ministry had procured enough maize to take the country through the lean period. This week he reminded the nation this was maize from the K4 billion Admarc was allocated in the 2015/16 and from the K8 billion from the Strategic Grain Reserves (SGR).
But what has happened is that during the whole lean period—from October to date—the 20kg ration system has been in force. For me, rationing means there is not enough of the commodity in the country!
The minister then owns up the problem for the shortage of maize in some parts of the country by blaming it on Fisp logistics. Really?
I would forgive Chiyembekeza if he botched the maize issue but got it right on Fisp, not both. It is a lame duck excuse to blame the scarcity of maize in the country on Fisp logistics—that some transporters could not allow their trucks to go the rural areas—when Fisp was also botched. Why was maize scarce even in towns and cities?
Then there is the issue of vendors. Every time there is a shortage of a highly sought commodity you expect some enterprising minds to get the commodity where it is scarce at higher price because the demand and supply rule applies. Vendors don’t create demand and supply bottlenecks as such. They are just a symptom of the problem. This is because they don’t operate as a cartel. They just capitalize on the imbalance in demand and supply to make a few bucks out of the situation.
So, the solution, contrary to the dummy Chiyembekeza is selling to the nation, is not reporting vendors to authorities. For what? Which law are they breaking? Vendors, like any other person, are in business. They source commodities and sell them where they are in demand. The only solution is just to flood the whole country with maize, a situation that will effectively eliminate vendors.
In its wisdom, some district council has resolved to make buyers dip their index fingers in ink to catch errant buyers. For me this still shows there is not enough maize in the country. If the maize is abundant in the country, what Chiyembekeza should do is simply get it everywhere. Perhaps the starting point would have been to take journalists around and show them the maize and people buying it without any hassles. The journalists would then show it on TV and run stories about them in print and electronic media. But you don’t expect anyone to believe you by merely issuing statements from the comfort of your aircon office while women and with babies are spending nights at Admarc depots to buy maize.
Then there is the suggestion that some business persons are hoarding the staple. All these are just conspiracy theories. Prove to all and sundry, honourable minister, that there is abundant maize in the country, then those hoarding it (if any) will be forced to release it on the market.