Millers offload 1 000 workers, blames cheap mealie-meal imports

MILLERS in the southern region say their operations are being hit hard by smuggled mealie-meal that continues to flood the local market.

The subdued business has resulted in the closure of several milling companies due to stiff competition, resulting in the loss of 1 000 jobs, Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) southern region chairman, Mr David Moyo, said.

He told journalists during a tour of milling companies in Bulawayo last Friday the sector was disturbed by continued importation of mealie meal at a time when the Government last month banned the importation of grain.

For instance, A 12,5kg bag of imported mealie-meal is selling at about US$3,50 compared to a locally produced 10kg maize meal packet, which costs US$5.

“We are finding it difficult to push our maize meal stocks due to the availability of imported mealie-meal.

“We were hoping that millers by this time, since we have a bumper harvest, business was going to bloom, but the opposite is happening,” said Mr Moyo.

“The retailers are resisting and are saying that our maize meal is expensive compared to smuggled maize meal. We know that the Government has put in place Statutory Instrument 127/2021, which bars the importation of maize meal products and we are wondering why we are still seeing imported mealie-meal in the local shops,” he said.

Mr Moyo appealed to the Government to monitor protect local industry.

“We feel that this imported mealie-meal is coming in through illegal means. We believe that they could be some under dealings at the borders,” he said.

Due to viability concerns posed by stiff competition from imported mealie-meal, among others, he said the milling companies in the southern region have in recent past laid off over 1 000 workers.

“I visited all our members last week to just check on how they are operating and discovered that most of them have closed their factories but there are heaps and heaps of maize meal and maize grain, which they are failing to offload to the market because of smuggled mealie-meal,” said Mr Moyo.

“Most of the workers have been placed on forced unpaid leave, the millers are no longer able to pay them because they are not milling.”

GMAZ has 50 members in the Southern region, which covers, Bulawayo, Gwanda, Victoria Falls Gweru and Masvingo. Millers are buying maize from the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) at ZWL$32 000 on a pre-payment arrangement.