FILE PHOTO: Maize field is seen below electricity pylons in Mpumalanga province, north of Johannesburg
Johannesburg – The Competition Commission on Friday, welcomed a decision by the Competition Tribunal confirming its R10 million settlement agreement with Blinkwater Mills, a maize milling firm based in Middelburg, Mpumalanga.

Blinkwater has agreed to pay a fine amounting to R10 112,504.20 for colluding with other maize milling firms to fix the price of milled white maize as well as the dates when the new pricing would be implemented. Milled white maize products include maize meal, samp, maize rice, maize flour and maize chop, which is a staple food for the majority of poor South Africans.

In terms of the settlement agreement between the Commission and Blinkwater, the milling firm admits liability and that it contravened the Competition Act by having agreed with its competitors to direct and indirect fixing of the selling price of milled white maize products, as well as agreeing to dates upon which these prices would be implemented.

The Commission said the collusive conduct, which is in contravention of section 4 of the Competition Act, took place between 1999 and 2007.

This matter dates back to 2007 when the Commission initiated a complaint against Tiger Brands, Pioneer Foods, Foodcorp, Pride Milling and Progress Milling.

The complaint was first initiated when the Commission received a corporate leniency application from Premier Foods in 2007, which was corroborated by a further leniency application filed by Tiger Brands in the same year.

The Commission subsequently conducted its probe into collusive conduct in this sector.

In this matter, the Commission has concluded settlement agreements with Foodcorp, Pioneer Foods, Carolina Roller Meule, and Keystone Milling. Tiger Brands Limited and Premier Foods have been granted conditional immunity in terms of the Commission's leniency policy.

At least 10 other milling firms have not yet settled with the Commission. Blinkwater has agreed to pay a fine in three instalments within a year which amounts to five percent of its annual turnover for the financial year ending in 2007.

In addition, Blinkwater has confirmed that it has ceased the cartel conduct and has agreed to fully cooperate with the Commission in the prosecution of the remaining respondents in the matter.

This includes providing documentary evidence to the Commission and assisting with current and past employees who can help in further prosecutions.

The Commission said it hoped that the Blinkwater settlement will encourage the remaining respondents to settle.