GRAIN Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) is lobbying government to review customs duty on imported wheat flour upwards in order to protect local wheat agro processing, farming and milling companies from extinction.
GMAZ chairperson Tafadzwa Musarara said the waiver on wheat flour imports to mitigate the shortage of flour in the country prior to dollarisation was no longer necessary as the milling industry had managed to reposition itself to secure adequate wheat stocks.
He said the continued importation of wheat flour when local companies now had capacity to provide the market was a serious threat to the industry and had to be addressed without delay.
“We respectfully urge authorities to rein in on these imports as soon as possible through customs reviews, and should the custom duties be reviewed downwards, the milling industry commits that it will not increase its prices of wheat flour, other things remaining equal.”
Finance minister Tendai Biti, however, said government would not do anything that will negatively affect the availability of flour in the country or increase the price of the product.
“Millers have the right to talk about upward review of custom duty on wheat flour, but as government, we will not take any action that will prejudice the availability or the price of flour in the country,” said Biti.
Biti said the issue of taxes would be clarified when he presents his mid-term budget review early next month.
Zimbabwe imported 45 million kg of wheat valued at US$27 million between January 1 and May 5, 2012, Musarara said. This follows government’s failure to raise US$20 million for this winter wheat season.
He said the country consumed 25 000 metric tonnes per month while private silos were holding 98 000 metric tonnes, translating to four months cover of bread flour.
He added that if local wheat were added to silos, the country would have six months’ wheat supply and this could be increased to 12 months’ cover, meaning that local millers could adequately supply the local market.