By Anna Chibamu
FINANCE Minister Mthuli Ncube has been advised to consider subsidising roller meal with more people going hungry as they cannot afford the price of the staple food.
Last week, Ncube increased the price of roller meal from $50 to $70.
The Finance Minister justified the increase claiming some unscrupulous people were smuggling it out of the country.
“We initially set it at $50 per 10kg then we discovered that some unscrupulous and sharp people were also exporting the roller meal,” he said.
“I have seen it in the neighbouring countries and so forth. We decided to close that arbitrage gap by increasing the price to $70 just to close that arbitrage gap,” Ncube said.
However, Harare North MP Rusty Markham said the Finance Minister should be considerate and subsidise roller meal so that the disadvantaged are also able to afford it.
“The minister mentioned ZUPCO and I have a problem subsidising ZUPCO to the quantity of 80% and yet basic foods where people are hungry, are subsidised to the tune of 25%,” said Markham.
“I cannot see how you can subsidise transport to 80% and people who are hungry only get a subsidy on roller meal to 25%.
“The roller meal issue has not been covered. I would like to know where the Minister has been, where they are selling this stuff (roller meal) because I have personally been to Chimoio (Mozambique) and Livingstone (Zambia) and there is no Zimbabwe-based roller meal there in the shops. It could be in the warehouse at the back but I have not seen it there,” he added.
In response, Ncube said the roller meal subsidy was a normal government policy to assist the vulnerable.
“We have been subsidising transport through ZUPCO. We have been subsidising fuel before if you recall and we have decided to subsidise roller meal on this occasion.
“We want to keep fine tuning the model of delivery and move to a targeted system where we target the beneficiary rather than going via millers and other intermediaries. That is where we are going eventually,” he said.