Millers urge licencing waiver as shops run out of mealie meal

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By Bulawayo Correspondent

THE Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) has implored authorities to temporarily suspend shop licencing requirements in Bulawayo to allow other players to sell mealie meal which has gone scarce in the city’s western suburbs.

This follows fierce protests that rocked Bulawayo last week with a lot of shops losing their goods through looting while some were left damaged.

There are signs some licenced shop owners affected by the situation were going to take time to recover and restock to the levels they were operating before.

Speaking during a stocks assessment tour of milling companies in Bulawayo Tuesday, GMAZ president Tafadzwa Musarara said an estimated $1.3 million amount of food products were looted during the civil unrest, torched by the recent hike in fuel prices by government.

“We are appealing for shop licensing to be suspended for now so as to allow any business people to buy maize meal direct from us and do mobile selling in the high density suburbs,” said Musarara who was accompanied by the Minister of State for Bulawayo Province Affairs, Judith Ncube.

“We have a challenge that millers cannot sell their stocks as fast as they can because shops that used to buy them are no longer there.

“They are probably not in a hurry to restock and are worried about their losses and damages. The best thing to do in the meantime is to create interim middle men to buy our products and sell to the consumers.”

The Harare businessman said Zimbabwean millers have also placed an appeal to government to direct the Grain Marketing Board to operate 24 hours a day so as to adequately service all milling companies with maize.

“We appealed to the minister to give a directive that GMB should operate 24 hours. We did four tours of both indigenous and international milling companies to have an overview of the maize situation in the city which worsened last week during the low outflows from GMB because of security concerns,” Musarara said.

He said his association has also requested government to provide security to milling companies as well as escort trucks carrying maize meal to the high density suburbs.

“We are asking for security personnel to be deployed to all milling companies and escorts be provided for movement of grain or our products,” he added.

Also speaking during the tour, Blue Ribbon branch manager Bigway Musiiwa said the company has adequate maize supply to cater for the whole southern region.

On his part, Minister Ncube said government has made arrangements with churches to use their premises to sell maize meal.