The mealie meal crisis continues to worsen three weeks after millers pledged to supplement government efforts to ease the shortage of the basic commodity on the market.
The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) a fortnight ago indicated that they had acquired 100 000 tonnes of maize from South Africa and Brazil with the first consignment of the staple expected to have been delivered last week.
However, in Bulawayo, long winding queues for the subsidised mealie meal have become a common sight, with retailers failing to ensure a steady supply of the product, forcing residents to resort to the black market where it is sold exorbitant prices.
In December, Finance and Economic Development Minister, Mthuli Ncube, announced a new subsidy on maize meal that would see the retail price of a 10kg bag of roller meal being pegged at ZWL50 down from between ZWL95 and ZWL105.
In an interview, mealie meal regulatory body spokesperson Garikai Chaunza said the current mealie meal challenges would be addressed by the end of the week.
“The crisis would have been dealt with at the end of the week because at the moment mealie meal is in transit and we will be able to communicate fully then,” said Chaunza.
He could not comment further, insisting the supplies they are importing would solve the crisis.
The country is faced with a devastating drought following consecutive poor harvests while the current cropping season is also likely to be one of the poorest in a decade.
Residents have expressed concerns as they are spending hours queueing for mealie meal.
In an interview with CITE, Aidah Marova said she spent the whole day in a queue at Tilus Supermarket only to be told the supermarket had run out of the product.
“After church on Sunday I went to look for mealie meal at Tilus Supermarket and we were made to make a queue separately so that we do not disturb everyone else who was shopping and when it was now my turn I was told the product had been finished so I should try elsewhere and we were sent away empty-handed,” said Marova.
She added that she was stranded and did not have the cash to buy from the parallel market.
“The problem with the black-market products is that they want cash upfront or foreign currency but some of us are civil servants and do not get paid in foreign currency so that becomes a huge disadvantage for us and we are forced to spend the whole day queueing,” she said.
Another resident Busani Ndiweni said many people are resorting to the black market where mealie meal is readily available.
“Going straight to the black market is the most logical thing to do because they always have it in stock that in retail shops where you have to spend hours in a long queue and get to be disappointed by the end of the day,” said Ndiweni.
“The government has failed us and we are afraid that food security is something they will fail to ensure and we need to provide for ourselves by all means or we will die of hunger.”