Monday, 27 April 2020

SUBSIDY STAMP WILL CURB ROLLER MEAL CORRUPT DEALS : MILLERS


THE Small and Medium Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe (SMMAZ) has proposed branding of mealie-meal packaging material with a standard Government subsidy stamp so as to curb corrupt deals involving the basic commodity.

The proposal comes on the back of concerns that subsidised mealie-meal is being diverted onto the parallel market by cartels and “connected” individuals for arbitrage opportunities, under-supplying the formal market.

In a document addressed to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce dated April 20, 2020 and copied to the Ministries of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, and Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, SMMAZ on behalf of its members said the proposed measure could help restore sanity in the distribution of mealie-meal.

“SMMAZ is glad to announce that it will be embarking on a campaign whose main objective among others, is to ensure that subsidy roller meal reaches the intended consumer and is not diverted onto the black market,” SMMAZ chairman, Mr Davies Muhambi, said.

“As a first step in implementing this campaign, SMMAZ has adopted a standard Government subsidy stamp design, which it has implemented on the packaging of member millers as a pilot project.”

He said the motivation behind the initiative was to ensure that subsidised maize meal reaches its intended beneficiaries through proper retail shops and at the recommended price. Mr Muhambi said at the moment it was almost impossible for anyone to distinguish between subsidised and non-subsidised mealie-meal.

“This has fuelled the channelling of subsidised mealie-meal to the black market and dealers are now profiteering at the expense of citizens.

“Once it is easy to identify by way of the subsidy stamp, citizens can demand to purchase maize meal at the regulated price,” said Mr Muhambi. 

Law enforcement agents and the Government taskforce on mealie-meal would also be able to easily identify subsidy maize meal being sold on the black market and to take the necessary measures at that point, he said.

In coming up with the concept, Mr Muhambi said SMMAZ was sensitive to the market vulnerability and social corporate responsibility to try by all means to alleviate the plight of the ordinary citizen who cannot afford the exorbitant prices obtaining on the black market.

In Bulawayo, for instance, a 10 kilogramme bag of subsidised roller meal was sold at between $120 and $180 on the parallel market against $70 on the formal market.

In the letter to Government, the small and medium millers’ association appealed to Government to support their initiative by drafting and enacting legislation that makes it mandatory for millers participating in the subsidy programme to incorporate the stamp on all their packaging.

So far, two milling companies within the small and medium milling sector have implemented the pilot project.

Millers in the sector have also appealed for Government support to outlaw the sale of subsidised mealie-meal on the black market as well as criminalising the re-bagging of subsidy roller meal into plain, unbranded or unstamped packaging and or erasing the subsidy stamp.
  
In their submission, SMMAZ wants the proposed legislation to be supported by punitive fines or jail sentence as a deterrent measure to would-be black-market retailers or accomplices.

The millers have proposed the need for Government support through embarking on an awareness campaign targeting the general public in order to make known the existence of the stamp and its features.

“It should also encourage the public to play an active role in the fight against the black market by refusing to pay prices other than the recommended price, reporting such activity to the police and or calling the numbers provided on the subsidy stamp,” said Mr Muhambi.

It is hoped that the awareness campaign would be centred around creating a strong sense of ownership of the subsidised roller meal by the general public, and that they should not allow anyone to take it from them nor abuse them for it.

Zimbabwe requires about 1,8 million tonnes of maize per year and due to poor harvest last cropping season, Government is importing to cover the deficit.
Individuals and corporates are now allowed to import grain using free funds. Due to the scarcity of subsidised mealie-meal on the formal market, consumers are scrambling for the limited commodity each time it gets delivered in retail outlets.

Last week, the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) has said access to subsidised mealie-meal had become a source of conflict that needs to be diffused before it gets out of hand during the lockdown period. Many people are spending long hours queuing for mealie-meal and sometimes they do not get it.

The queues have resulted in members of the public failing to observe social distancing and lockdown regulations, a critical component of flattening the Covid-19 curve. Herald

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