Coupons will be issued within a week to targeted households to buy subsidized roller meal, with the database of beneficiaries at an advanced stage, a Cabinet minister has said.
The coupon system for roller meal is expected to ensure that the vulnerable people whom subsidies were supposed to benefit will access the subsidized maize-meal without problems.
The existing system of subsidies paid to millers on all roller meal produced has seen the bulk of the product diverted to the black market by people willing to stand in queues all day or by unscrupulous smaller retailers.
Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube, who recommended the switch to coupons in Cabinet yesterday, adjusted the price of subsidized roller meal on Tuesday to $70 from $50 to discourage retailers and connected sections of society from diverting the roller meal to the black market where it fetches between $120 and $200 for a 10kg bag.
The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) had submitted that $50 was no longer sustainable for a 10kg bag of maize-meal because of the high cost of importing maize and the attendant transport costs.
Addressing journalists after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the decision to introduce the coupon system followed recommendations by Prof Ncube in his briefing to Cabinet in the last meeting on the action taken to normalize roller meal supplies.
Minister Mutsvangwa said Cabinet had noted that the previous $50 price for a 10kg bag of roller meal provided arbitrage opportunities for some unscrupulous people.
“Government has thus moved in to redress the situation using a two-pronged approach,” she said.
“Firstly, it was decided that the price be raised to $70 per 10kg bag of maize-meal from $50. Secondly, a targeted coupon scheme for the
vulnerable is in the offing with the compilation of a database at an advanced stage.”
Minister Mutsvangwa said the coupon system was not new and was practiced in other jurisdictions across the world.
She said when the roller meal subsidy was introduced in December last year after President Mnangagwa expressed concern over the then prevailing high prices.
It was meant to protect vulnerable groups.
“However, the wide gap between the market and subsidized prices has created undesirable arbitrage opportunities for some unscrupulous players, resulting in the market and supply distortions,” she said.
“In view of this situation, the Government had no choice but to review the prices upwards to bring the subsidised price to the market price of $70.”
She said the Government remained mindful of the concerns of the citizens hence keeping the increase at $20.
Minister Mutsvangwa said the ministries of Finance and Economic Development and Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare were setting up a database of vulnerable groups of people qualifying for the coupon system.
Deliveries of roller meal would be taken to the districts for people to buy the product at the subsidized price.
“In terms of knowing who are vulnerable, we have the data; it is a question of going through all the districts and gets the names of all the vulnerable. This is what the Government is doing at the moment,” she said.