Tuesday, February 19, 2013

(SUNDAY MAIL ZW) US$7 million grain stuck in Zambia

US$7 million grain stuck in Zambia
Sunday, 17 February 2013 00:00
Kudakwashe Bwititi and Itai Mazire

More than 17 000 tonnes of maize worth US$7 million belonging to Zimbabwean grain millers are stuck in Zambia after authorities in that country introduced a grain export ban. Concerns have already been raised that Zimbabwe could experience maize meal shortages on the back of dwindling grain supplies. Zambian Embassy officials in Harare could not be reached for comment.

In an interview last Friday, Grain Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) chairman Mr Tafadzwa Musarara said Zambia’s Food Reserve Agency refused to release the grain although all due payments had been made. He said about 12 000 tonnes belong to National Foods and the remainder to Alpha Grain.

“The white maize export ban imposed by Zambia in December 2012 has resulted in Zimbabwean millers being unable to collect pre-paid white maize from the Food Reserve Agency of Zambia and private traders. We are owed a total of 17 000 tonnes, which is worth up to US$7 million at current commercial value,” he said.

Mr Musarara said millers who paid for their consignments are in a quandary as Zambian authorities are refusing to open negotiations. Lusaka has also refused to refund the millers in lieu of the outstanding deliveries, he added.

Mr Musarara said some parts of Zimbabwe are experiencing maize meal shortages after the Grain Marketing Board ran out of maize to supply millers last month.

Industry and Commerce Minister Professor Welshman Ncube said it would not be difficult to thrash out an agreement with the Zambians.
He said several Sadc protocols on free trade could be used to recover the grain.

“We have very good trade relations with Zambia. What they (GMAZ) should do is approach us so that we speak directly to our counterparts in Zambia because they are not difficult to talk to,” he said.

Last week, the association wrote to the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development seeking recourse.

Part of the letter addressed to the Permanent Secretary, Cde Ngoni Masoka, reads: “Should you find it necessary, our national executive is keen to accompany you to Zambia for the negotiations of the same.

“We strongly believe that your esteemed office, through government to government negotiations, is able to facilitate these deliveries and we thank you in advance for your anticipated valued assistance.”

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