THE Grain Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ), which represents the country’s major milling companies, wants the Government to impose a 40 percent tariff on imports of maize and mealie-meal because it is struggling to compete with cheaper South African equivalents grown from genetically modified seeds.
The imports are harming Zimbabwe’s attempts to improve food security by boosting local production, Mr Tafadzwa Musarara, the chairman of the association said.
“The local milling industry has been on the end of the stick with regards to South African imports as South African millers literally dump cheap GMO mealie-meal into our economy and it’s time Zimbabwe realigned its economy by localising production of its staple foods,” he said.
Zimbabwe also imports maize from Zambia and other producers following years of low yields due to drought. The country has spent about $7 billion on maize and maize product imports since 2002, Mr Musarara said.
The association has committed to buying 800 000 metric tonnes of locally grown maize and 100 000 tonnes of locally grown wheat this season, the association said in a separate submission to Parliament. The country has wheat stocks of 115 000 tonnes, which it is struggling to use because of wheat flour imports, it said.
“Decisions are not made on the basis of complaints by millers, what if South Africa retaliates, what will we do?” said Mr Godfrey Kanyenze, an economist at the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe.
“We must be careful and not shoot ourselves in the foot by making a populist decision which we may end up reversing.”
Meanwhile, millers say demand for rice has increased by 300 percent from 50 000 tonnes per year in 2007 to 200 000 tonnes per year in 2016 as more people eat the cereal as a substitute to maize.
“Changing tastes and consumer options have seen increased preference for rice as a substitute for maize. At the turn of the century, Zimbabwe’s consumption of the staple maize was close to two million tonnes annually,” Mr Musarara said in a telephone interview with Business Chronicle.
“Some can cook rice in the morning for their breakfast compared to eating bread. Rice also serves a lot of people and it’s faster to cook.”