By Maluba Jere
Saturday December 29, 2007 [03:00]
NATIONAL Milling Corporation managing director Peter Cottan has said his company bought over 100,000 tonnes of maize in 2007. In an interview, Cottan said 80 per cent of the maize was bought from small-scale farmers while the remaining 20 per cent was from commercial farmers.
“We have secured stocks of maize to last up to May next year when farmers start harvesting their crop this year, we are probably the second largest buyer after FRA,” he said. “We have finished buying maize and we have enough to last up to 2007/2008 harvest time and we bought most of the maize from small scale farmers as a way of empowering them.”
Cottan said consumers had benefited from excess maize stocks which he said had kept the prices for the commodity stable.
“We also have tremendous competition which is healthy, especially that mealie meal prices have not gone up in 2007,” he said.
Cottan also said the company had secured 17,000 tonnes of wheat from three local traders. He said the wheat stocks would stabilise flour prices on the market if the government banned the exports of the produce.
“We have had a reasonable year in that we wanted an import parity of about $600 per tonne but some people saw an opportunity because of the deficit in wheat,” he said. “The other millers who saw an opportunity of the high prices started offering $400 per tonne and the wheat bought was stored leading to increased prices for the commodity.”
Cottan also said he did not expect the country to have a shortage of maize as there would be carry-overs from the 2007/2008 harvest. He also said it was sad that the government had allowed wheat exports which led to the deficit.
“We don’t want to see any exports because the impact is on stock feed prices which is felt mostly by millers but eventually filters its way to consumers,” he said. “Consumers haven’t seen price increases because millers have been absorbing the prices.”