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FROM left: Chieftainess Nkomeshya Mukamambo II, President Edgar Lungu and Chinese Ambassador to Zambia Li Jie unveiling a plaque to kick-start the construction of a milling plant in Chongwe yesterday. PICTURE: ROYD SIBAJENE/ZANIS

Rural milling plants key solution

RURAL areas of Zambia are the grain baskets. Surprisingly, mealie meal is very expensive in areas such as Chisamba, Kaoma, Lundazi, Mazabuka, Monze and Mumbwa, among the rural areas which produce maize in abundance.
The average price of a 25 kilogramme bag of breakfast mealie meal is about K100 at the moment.
It has become inevitable therefore for Government to intervene and protect the people in rural areas. This intervention has been taken a step higher with President Edgar Lungu’s ground breaking ceremony yesterday for the construction of milling plants under the Presidential Milling Plants Initiative.
Government has in this case been very strategic in investing in milling plants in the rural areas.
The direct benefits of this intervention is that the cost of producing mealie meal in the rural areas will be reduced significantly.
This is because the maize (raw material) is already in those areas and that cuts on the transportation costs.
Secondly, the milling plants will provide a ready market for farmers that may want to sell their surplus maize.
This will also reduce the cost of transportation as the market is nearby and there is no need to sell to millers that are in far-flung places.
The other benefit is that the 13 milling plants to be set up across the country will provide direct and indirect jobs for the locals in the communities where they will be set up.
In terms of indirect benefits, the power generated by the solar milling plants can be used to power other community projects such as incubators and clinics, among others. Some of these communities are not yet on the national power grid.
Setting up of the milling plants will also benefit local businesses to supply goods and services that are needed to help with the operations of the milling plants. For example, suppliers of packaging materials and transport will be beneficiaries.
The extended benefit of setting up these milling plants, especially in rural areas, are two-fold. The first one is that the concept of industrialisation is being extended to the rural areas, hence fulfilling one of the tenets of the Seventh National Development Plan on industrialising Zambia.
There is also the enhancing of value addition to the maize because, apart from the core business of milling the grain, by-products such as stockfeed will also be produced.
It is commendable that Government has decided to lead the way in servicing and empowering rural communities as the private sector has concentrated its business along the line of rail.
Currently, most maize milling companies are located along the line of rail. Out of about 50 milling plants dotted across the country, 39 are in cities and towns.
There will also be skills transfer to the local people through transfer of both technological and operational know-how from China Machinery Industry Construction Group Incorporated to the University of Zambia and eventually to local communities.
We therefore expect UNZA to engage lecturers and students from the school of engineering, Natural Resources Development College and other colleges of agriculture to benefit from the skills transfer during the construction phase at UNZA’s Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centre.
Apprentices should then be recruited by the Zambia Correctional Service, Zambia National Service and other government wings which will be running the milling plants.
These milling plants should supplement the solar plants being run by the Zambia Cooperative Federation.