Zambia to Regulate Prices of Staple Corn Meal, President Says

Zambia will introduce legislation to control, and reduce, the price of corn meal as the cost of the southern African nation’s staple food climbs because of a regional shortage, President Edgar Lungu said.

While the country had a surplus of the grain, the government has struggled to curb smuggling to neighboring countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Zimbabwe, where prices are more than double those in Zambia. Illegal exports have reached “alarming levels,” causing prices in Zambia to surge and prompting panic buying by consumers, according to a farmers’ lobby group.

“Government shall sign a statutory instrument to regulate the high price of mealie meal in the country” on Thursday, Lungu said in a statement posted to the presidency’s Facebook account, referring to the local name for the cereal Zambians use to make a porridge called nshima.

Corn-meal prices increased by an average 21 percent in March from a year earlier. The government this month suspended exports of the product for a week, and maintained the ban for grain that hasn’t been milled. The price of the staple food is politically sensitive in Zambia, and government subsidizes both the production and consumption of corn in the country.

Zambia, Africa’s second-biggest copper producer, holds national elections in August.

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