Three months after farmers harvested their maize, State-produce trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) will start procuring maize on Wednesday.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Admarc board chairperson Alexander Kusamba Dzonzi said K95 billion has since been budgeted for the exercise that will include buying other agricultural commodities.
He said the corporation is expected to buy over 900 000 metric tonnes (MT) of maize in tranches, starting with 300 000MT.
Said Kusamba Dzonzi: “We are not going to entertain any vendors, and we are also going to be cautious with the issue of moisture content. Anybody who will come with such maize will be told to go back and dry it.”
He said Admarc believes that there are still some farmers who have the maize and do not want to sell it at lower prices to private traders.
In its June Malawi Monthly Maize Market Report, the International Food Policy Research Institute (Ifpri) indicates that the monthly average retail price of maize for the month was K132 per kilogramme (kg).
This translates to 12 percent lower than the government-mandated minimum farm gate price of K150 per kg and five percent lower than the previous month.
On Monday, maize farmers expressed concern that they are losing out to middlemen who are offering below the minimum set price.
Civil Society Agriculture Network (CisaNet) executive director Pamela Kuwali described the delays by Admarc to buy the maize as a matter of concern, stressing that farmers have been denied a market opportunity.
She said that consequently, with no market option, most farmers have ended up selling their maize elsewhere at much lower prices than those offered by Admarc.
Said Kuwali: “By the time Admarc opens up the markets, farmers would have already sold their maize at the lower prices and it will be the traders that are likely to benefit from the public procurement.”
She said they want government to urgently look into such Admarc issues and address them immediately.
In a separate interview, agricultural policy expert Tamani Nkhono-Mvula said Admarc is one of the most important institutions in as far as marketing of agricultural commodities is concerned.
“However, over the past 20 years, Admarc has been a huge disappointment and I am not surprised with what is going on at the moment.
“But this is a huge disincentive to the morale of the farmers if at all they had a desire of going commercial. A reliable market is a must for any process of commericalisation,” he said.
Nkhono-Mvula further pointed out that such delays only benefit the already well-off traders who find tenders to supply Admarc at a later stage.
Government sets the minimum farm gate prices for agricultural produce in accordance with the Agricultural General Purposes Act 1987 Cap 65.05 of the Laws of Malawi.