PRESIDENT Lungu has warned millers to stop using the current economic challenges as an excuse to exploit the already stressed Zambians.And Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) president Evelyn Nguleka says milling is not a complicated and sophisticated business to warrant higher mealie- meal prices when the country has enough maize stocks.Meanwhile, President Lungu has directed councils and other regulators to stop imposing levies without consulting other stakeholders and to adhere to the Business Regulatory Act.Officially opening the 110th ZNFU annual congress under the theme ‘growth through agri-finance and technology’ in Lusaka yesterday, President Lungu said Government has confidence in the private sector as the engine for economic development.
The President said all market players should abide by the rules, act ethically and desist from all forms of opportunistic behaviour aimed at exploiting consumers at the pretext of volatility in the foreign exchange market.“We will allow market forces to regulate the market but let me assure the nation that Government will undertake measured interventions to protect the consumer from unjustified price hikes of essential commodities such as mealie-meal, meat, cooking oil, bread and others.“There can be no justification, for instance, why maize and fertiliser, supplied on the market when the exchange rate was below the current rate, should go up suddenly! I am hopeful that market players will play by the rules so that they do not lead Government to contemplate interventions beyond normal regulatory oversights,” President Lungu said.He also said councils have misconstrued his opening remarks at the Local Government Service Commission (LGSC) annual meeting at which he stated that abolition of grain levies was not backed by legislation.“This has been interpreted to mean that grain levies should be reinstated in an arbitrary manner. My Government commits to fair, easy, stable and predictable tax systems in the agriculture sector hence councils should ensure consultations and adherence to the Act before introducing any new costs on business,” he said.And Dr Nguleka urged Government to institute investigations into operations of millers.“They want to hold Government to ransom when the country has enough maize stocks. Millers do collude to increase prices but where is the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission when these people are breaching competition rules with impunity,” she said. ZAMBIA DAILY MAIL