POLICE have busted another sophisticated mealie-meal smuggling channel, with the seizure of 519 bags of the commodity concealed in an acid tanker truck destined for Kasumbalesa border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
And the Grain Traders Association of Zambia (GTAZ) has started offloading the 245,000 tonnes of maize under a tripartite agreement with Food Reserve Agency (FRA) and Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ), which is expected to result in a reduction in the wholesale and retail prices of mealie-meal.
It is projected that the mealie-meal prices will reduce by between K10 and K15.
The acid tanker truck registration number ABT 9245 and ACR 2744 T registered under Global Freight Services Limited of Ndola was impounded by a team of Chingola police officers on Saturday after a tip-off from suspicious members of the public.
Copperbelt commissioner of police Charity Katanga said in an interview yesterday that police have arrested the driver identified as Amed Mohammed and his lorry-mate, Kennedy Selengati, for alleged smuggling.
“We have impounded a truck in Chingola in which 519 bags of mealie-meal were concealed. This follows a tip-off from the alert members of the public,” she said.
Chingola district commissioner Mary Chibesa commended the police for the quick action in intercepting the acid tanker and thwarting attempts to smuggle mealie-meal into the DRC.
“We commend police for their swift action to prevent the smuggling of hundreds of bags into DRC,” he said.
Mrs Chibesa called on police to bring to book those smuggling the staple food to ensure national food security.
Mealie-meal smugglers, encouraged by lucrative prices in the DRC, have heightened their activities despite the police intensifying their patrols and backed by Zambia National Service personnel.
Mealie-meal bought at an average of K100 for a 50kg bag in Zambia is said to fetch upto K400 in the DRC, which shares a vast border with Zambia.
And BUTTYSON KANDIMBA reports that a team of security officers in Mushindamo district has confiscated over 3,000 bags of mealie-meal from houses being used as warehouses near Kipushi border in North-Western Province.
North-Western Province commissioner of police Auxensio Daka said in an interview yesterday that the mealie-meal was seized by members of the provincial joint operations committee (PJOC) on Sunday.
“On Sunday, a team of security heads for the province had an opportunity to go to Mushindamo district up to the border with DRC in Kupushi to verify and ascertain the issue of smuggling of maize and mealie-meal,” Mr Daka said.
He said during the operation, it was discovered that villagers have rented out their houses to unscrupulous traders who are using them as storage facilities for mealie-meal before smuggling the commodity.
“When we reached there, we found that there are 13 houses that had been turned into warehouses for maize and mealie-meal.
“These 13 houses are within Mushindamo district but before the border and we confiscated the maize and the mealie-meal and organised transport to collect and bring it to a central point where we have been stocking it and so far, we have collected more than 3,000 bags,” Mr Daka said.
“The trucks that were offloading the maize and mealie-meal are still in the area, they offloaded in the area and the drivers have run away, so the trucks are just parked along the road,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Daka has said a ZNS officer was assaulted by villagers in Mushindamo after he attempted to intercept a truck that was offloading mealie-meal into one of the houses.
He said no arrests have been made but police are investigating the assault case.
He said the ZNS officer is admitted to Solwezi General Hospital.
Meanwhile, CATHERINE MUMBA reports that GTAZ executive director Chambuleni Simwinga said in an interview yesterday the offloading of maize to millers started last week and will continue until the agreed quantity of grain is delivered.
MAZ president Andrew Chintala said mealie-meal prices are expected to start reducing this weekend after the offloading of maize to 16 millers.
Mr Chintala said in a separate interview that the Ministry of Agriculture has approved an initial list of about 16 millers to be issued with contracts to start receiving maize from GTAZ immediately and in turn start making adjustments to the commodity prices by the end of this week.
“So we expect this to start rolling out this week but, off course, we may be able to see the impact countrywide when the exercise is completed in the next two weeks,” he said.
Mr Chintala said MAZ is hopeful that the Ministry of Agriculture will expedite the process of releasing a final list so that all millers can access the grain for the whole nation to start benefiting from the reduction.
He appealed to millers who have not yet been issued contracts to exercise patience as the Ministry of Agriculture is doing everything possible to ensure all millers are covered.
Ministry of Agriculture permanent secretary Julius Shawa said only millers who will agree to sign the contracts will access the maize from GTAZ and the Food Reserve Agency (FRA).
Mr Shawa said the ministry hopes that millers will sign the contracts to help Government quickly reduce the mealie-meal prices.
GTAZ is expected to offload 245,000 tonnes of maize under the tripartite agreement with FRA and MAZ.