SHOPS in Bulawayo have run out of mealie-meal, a development that has forced some retail outlets in the country’s second largest city to ration the staple commodity.
The shortage has allowed some unscrupulous informal traders in the city to sell the product on the black market at exorbitant prices.
A snap survey by NewZimbabwe.com in the city discovered that a 10kg bag of roller meal is going for $55 on the black market while the few shops selling the staple are charging amounts ranging from $36 to $60 depending on the brand.
Some few supermarkets selling the commodity were rationing.
“We are strictly selling one 10kg bag per customer. We have only 10 kgs left. Some millers have promised us deliveries by Friday this week.
“On Thursday, representatives of local business people are meeting millers to find out from them what is the problem,” said one shop owner who refused to be named.
Major supermarket chains such as OK, TM Pick n Pay, and Choppies have all run out of the commodity.
“Since Sunday, I have been trying to buy mealie-meal from my shopping centre in Tshabalala but there is no single shop selling it. When I got into town today (Wednesday), I could also not get it in shops,” said Never Mlilo, a father of four.
Mlilo said he was forced to buy a bucket of maize at Renkin long distance bus terminus for $50.
“On top of buying the maize for that much, I incurred extra costs of milling the maize. I had no choice because my family was going to starve. The prices of other substitutes like rice, bread and potatoes are also very high,” added Mlilo.
Some consumers said they feared a repeat of the 2008 crisis when locals spent long days scrounging for mealie-meal and other commodities.
The government this week increased maize and wheat prices to millers by 86 percent and 38 percent, respectively.
There is already speculation that the current mealie-meal shortages are artificial as retailers anticipate new mealie-meal prices following the upward adjustment of the maize producer prices.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) president Denford Mutashu could not be reached for comment as his mobile phone was not answered.