Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) is yet to pay smallholder farmers about K1.2 billion for the 55 000 metric tonnes (MT) of maize it bought from them three months ago.
In an interview yesterday, Admarc acting chief executive officer Felix Jumbe confirmed the delay, but said the outstanding K1.2 billion will be transferred into bank accounts of the farmers and traders by close of business today [Wednesday].
He said: “We were supposed to buy 35 000MT of maize, but we ended up getting 55 000 because people were more willing to sell their maize to us. Some of them actually went beyond the tonnage that we had agreed.
“We have suppressed the tonnage we wanted for soy and that money has been channelled to maize.
“So for the maize we have, it has cost us K11 billion and we are remaining with K1.2 billion which we are paying off to traders on Wednesday. We hope that traders also understand that with elections and change of government, this delay was bound to happen.”
But Mzuzu-based small-scale trader Grecium Botha, who sold maize to Admarc on June 16, yesterday said the State produce trader had been playing games with the traders by allegedly making unfulfilled promises on payment.
He said the situation was inconveniencing, especially because they thought Admarc would be more forthcoming on payment than vendors who have been ripping them off.
Said Botha: “All we want is our money because we delivered what they wanted. We sold the maize to better our lives, but the delays are not helping, especially now during this time of Coronavirus when business is slowing down.
Capital Hill helped to facilitate Admarc’s earlier-than-usual buying of maize from small-scale farmers to protect them from unscrupulous vendors who buy the country’s staple grain on the cheap from farmers.
The move was also one of the Covid-19 measures aimed at putting money into people’s pockets to cushion them from the financial pain that the global pandemic has brought, especially among the poor.
“We appeal to Admarc to pay us so that we are able to survive during this time. And next time they want to by maize, let them be quick on payment, not as they have done now.”
In the 2020/21 Provisional Budget Statement, Minister of Finance Felix Mlusu said Treasury would release extra funds to enable Admarc to buy produce and allow the parastatal to borrow from commercial banks.
He said: “Government has allocated resources in the Provisional Budget for Admarc to purchase maize and other farm produce from farmers. In addition to the allocated resources, Admarc will also be allowed to borrow from the commercial banks.
“This is expected to provide smallholder farmers with a reliable market to sell their farm produce.”
During yesterday’s interview, Jumbe said Admarc would be buying an extra 50 000MT of maize.
He said: “We now want to buy another 50 000MT of maize and we are just waiting for a signing off from government so that we proceed [making arrangements] with the banks and buy the maize.”
Earlier, the Farmers Union of Malawi accused Admarc of letting down farmers after the parastatal failed to buy maize, especially in rural markets.
In the 2020/21 fiscal year, Treasury allocated K10 billion for maize purchases by the National Food Reserve Agency to restock the Strategic Grain Reserves and Admarc for its social function.