State produce trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) has played down allegations by pigeon peas (nandolo) farmers on the modalities it is using to buy the commodity from farmers.
Nandolo Farmers Association (NFA) alleged on Sunday that Admarc is only buying the produce from private traders and politically-connected individuals at K230 per kilogramme (kg), sidelining peasant farmers.
But in an interview yesterday, Admarc acting chief executive officer Margret Roka Mauwa said her organisation has been buying the produce straight from peasant farmers in the rural areas in most parts of the Southern and Central regions, along the lakeshore and in Rumphi, Mzimba and Karonga in the Northern Region.
She said: “It is not true that we are buying pigeon peas from private traders or highly connected politicians. We are buying straight from the smallholder farmers in the rural areas as we currently have no space in our warehouses in town which are stocked with maize,” she said.
But NFA chairperson Susan Chimbayo in an interview yesterday maintained that peasant farmers are yet to sell their produce to Admarc, with their warehouses still fully-stocked despite the market opening last month.
“We have proof that Admarc is not buying from us because we usually aggregate our produce and stock them in warehouses which were provided by Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism.
“We are being sent back from Admarc each time we take our produce there either because the Admarc depot has run out of cash or there has already been pigeon peas delivered there. We are not sure where it is coming from, but we have all proof it is not ours,” she said.
Chimbayo said the farmers plan to march to present a petition to Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism this week if their concerns are not addressed.
The ministry’s spokesperson Wiskes Nkombezi yesterday said their role is policy implementation and that Admarc is better- placed to know the situation on the ground.
A statement issued last month signed by the ministry’s Principal Secretary Ken Ndala indicated that President Peter Mutharika directed that pigeon peas farmers should sell their produce to Admarc to avoid intermediaries.
The statement said government will buy the crop at K230 per kg, which is K90 less than the minimum price of K320 per kg initially set.
Last month, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe said government has allocated K5 billion from the unforeseen expenditure vote of the 2018/19 National Budget to buy 23 000 metric tonnes of pigeon peas from local farmers although there was no ready market in India.
In August last year, India which is the largest market for pigeon peas, imposed quotas on the crop moving it from free to the restricted category of imports, affecting government’s plan to ramp up production of the crop as part of its wider diversification strategy.