Three players in the agriculture industry have described the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) maize purchase processes as not benefiting small-scale farmers.
The players—African Institute of Corporate Citizenship (Aicc), Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) and Grain Traders and Processors Association of Malawi (GTPAM)—say Admarc’s inadequate funding and delay to start buying maize compels small-scale farmers to sell their produce to vendors.
The sentiments follow Minister of Finance Felix Mlusu’s remarks in Parliament on Tuesday that arrangements have been made to ensure that Admarc is given enough resources [K95 billion] that it requires to purchase maize and other farm produce from farmers.
Admarc has said it plans to buy 1.1 million metric tonnes of maize this year. At a farm-gate price of K150 per kilogramme (kg) which Admarc plans to buy the crop, the State firm will require approximately K165 billion.
In an interview on Thursday, Aicc chief executive officer (CEO) Felix Lombe said government is fiscally constrained, and he doubted if the said K95 billion is available for Admarc.
“Let’s assume that government is indeed geared to give K95 billion to Admarc, which cannot be done at once. It means Admarc will not have that liquidity to buy at this peak season which means they will not be able to buy because, ordinarily, we buy maize between June and September,” said Lombe.
He said Admarc maize purchase will, therefore, not benefit farmers because it is already late to release the funds now, when farmers have already sold their produces to vendors.
“The moisture content aside, Admarc has always been an inefficient entity in its operations and, unfortunately, even its books are very opaque and you cannot trust anything that Admarc tells you,” he added.
In a separate interview, FUM chief executive officer Jacob Nyirongo said it has been every farmer’s wish to sell their produce, such as maize, to Admarc, but the corporation’s recommended moisture content limit betrays producers, a situation that compels farmers to sell the produce to vendors.
“What surprises us is that an institution like Admarc doesn’t have any produce drying equipment, and we are only depending on the sun to dry the maize,” he said.
He observed that most of the farmers sell their produce soon after harvesting, and suggested that Admarc should invest in the procurement of grain driers in its warehouses.
On her part, GTPAM chairperson Grace Mijiga-Mhango also observed that Admarc is already late on the maize market and it will be difficult to buy 1.1 million tonnes of maize.
“Vendors are just more of scapegoat, but in all ways, whether it’s storage, logistics or finance, they don’t have the capacity. It’s just ambitions, but we are far,” she said.
But Admarc spokesperson Agnes Chikoko expressed optimism that the farm produce purchase will benefit small-scale farmers this year.
She said: “The turnout by small-scale farmers in over 150 markets the State grain trader has opened in the Southern Region is impressive. The corporation has already bought about 2 000 metric tonnes in three weeks.”
Chikoko said the corporation is currently buying maize from about K7 billion which government allocated to it, and that it is still monitoring maize moisture content before opening its other maize markets in the Southern and Northern regions.
Our spot-checks in some of the country’s maize markets last month found that vendors who were already on the ground were buying the grain from as low as K70 per kilogramme (kg), against government’s K150 per kg recommended price.