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Zambia's Sata says high maize meal price could spark riots

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Mon, 7 Jan 2013 11:49 GMT
Author: Reuters
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LUSAKA, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Zambian President Michael Sata said on Monday he feared riots if the price of the staple maize meal remained unaffordable for the majority of people in Africa's top copper producer.

The price of maize meal has almost doubled to 80 kwacha (${esc.dollar}15.21) per 25 kg bag from 45 kwacha (${esc.dollar}8.56) two months ago and the government says the sharp increase is unjustifiable.

"If you don't remember, Kenneth Kaunda's government was overthrown because of food riots and I don't want food riots," Sata said at a meeting with government officials, referring to the Zambia's former president.

Sata said last week his government was considering re-introducing price controls on maize meal.

Curbs on its price could garner wide political support.

The government, which subsidises maize production, has been selling maize to millers cheaply and expecting them to pass on the lower costs to consumers, he said.

"I am going to meet the millers from here and I want you, the permanent secretaries and the ministers in provinces, to try and protect the people," Sata said.

Zambia's inflation rate accelerated to 7.3 percent year-on-year in December from 6.9 percent in November, partly because of rising food prices. (${esc.dollar}1 = 5.2600 Zambian kwachas) (Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Jon Herskovitz)

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