Government must strike a balance between fighting the smuggling of maize and genuine traders buying the crop from farmers for resale to milling companies and others.

The plight of some grain traders whose trucks carrying maize were impounded by the Zambia National Service in Kafue calls for swift intervention from the authorities.

The ZNS is reportedly forcing the traders to sell the commodity to preferred milling companies in Lusaka.

Government needs to establish whether it is illegal for anyone to buy and transport maize from one part of the country to another.

About eight trucks laden with maize have so far been impounded and the grain traders say they are being forced to specifically sell their maize to APG Milling which is offering a price much lower than the standard rate.

The grain traders who had bought their maize from Mazabuka and Monze had their trucks impounded in Kafue by ZNS who are said to have ordered that the maize be sold to APG Milling when there were several other milling companies in Lusaka buying the commodity at a much higher rate.

According to one of the affected drivers, Mr Salim Teddy Sanga, a ZNS officer he named as Lieutenant-Colonel Nkweto was allegedly forcing them that all the eight trucks should offload the maize at APG Milling Company in Lusaka which was offering low prices of K4 per tonne.

One question that comes to mind is what is so special about the recommended milling company when the traders obviously had a market in mind for the maize – as free enterprise dictates.

Mr Sanga explained that the ZNS had refused the drivers to sell their maize to other milling companies which were offering K4.8 per tonne.

“We agreed with ZNS and they took my truck from Kafue up to APG Milling. When I reached here, the price of APG Milling was low as they want to buy the maize at K4 per tonne while other milling companies are buying it at K4.8 per tonne,” Mr Sanga complained.

We realise that dealing in maize and mealie meal attracts a lot of attention what with the reported shortage of mealie meal in some parts of the country as well as the escalating price of the staple food.

The situation has been compounded by the confusion surrounding the import and export of maize and mealie meal with contradictory statement among government officials.

The position is particularly dicey for the Copperbelt Province where smuggling of mealie meal into the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

The rampant smuggling has been blamed for the shortage of mealie meal in the region as some individuals avoid open trading in preference to illegal exports.

This is the more reason why the government and its law and security enforcement agents should be mindful how they handle grain traders for not everyone should be labelled as a smuggler.

“I am going to sell my maize for a good price. I am ready to sell my maize. Now they want to take us back to Kafue. There are eight trucks here, all impounded from Kafue,” Mr Sanga said.

Just what is going on, Mr Sanga and his colleagues deserve a fair hearing.

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