The acute shortage of mealie-meal in Zimbabwe is expected to boost retail business profits in Francistown.
From the year 2000 until early 2009, Francistown was the first port of call for scores of hungry Zimbabweans, who were unable to source necessities from basic foodstuffs to clothing and relied on Botswana for most necessities.
For the past three to four years however, there was a marked shift in commercial activity following the introduction of the US dollar in the neighbouring country.
After the formation of the Government of National Unity (GNU) in Zimbabwe in 2009, the number of Zimbabweans crossing the border in search of foodstuffs started declining, bringing a relative business lull in the second city.
But recent investigations conducted by this publication have established that Zimbabweans have started flocking to Francistown to buy bags of mealie-meal in bulk for reselling in their hunger-stricken native country.
Scores of Zimbabweans, some from afar field as Harare and Mutare, cross into Francistown on a daily basis to purchase mealie meal in bulk for reselling especially in remote areas where hunger has been reported to be devastating.
Zimbabwe bound trucks filled to the brim with bags of maize meal were a common feature in the country’s second city for the past two weeks.
Although no official comment could be obtained from SPAR Supermarkets in Francistown, employees who talked to this publication revealed that retail shops are set for a business boom “They (Zimbabweans) have been coming in droves to buy maize meal,” said an employee at one of the SPAR Supermarkets in Francistown.
Choppies’ delivery arena was a hive of commercial activities as Zimbabweans loaded volumes of maize for reselling back home.
An employee with the retail giant said they have been experiencing a brisk business from Zimbabweans buying mealie meal.
A Zimbabwean buyer, who identified herself as Mma Sibanda said their country is experiencing a serious cereal shortage this year.
She said she buys the bags of mealie meal for reselling in areas which were severely affected by drought especially the Matabeleland North province.
One owner of a retail shop at Dingimuzi location of the border town of Plumtree who declined to be identified said the little mealie meal from millers is very expensive.
“It does not make a business sense to buy the product at an exorbitant price. Cereal shortage in Zimbabwe has resulted in millers increasing the price because they are importing the grain from Zambia,” said the retailer.
Zimbabwe is facing a serious food shortage after experiencing a mixed rain season that was characterized by incessant rains, followed by a harsh dry spell that subsequently destroyed the maize crop.