Amid an acute maize shortage which has pushed up prices on the market, Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) plans to open its selling depots in September.
Admarc chief executive officer Foster Mulumbe said in an interview on Tuesday the State produce trader will open its more than 1 000 depots nationwide although it is yet to start bringing in 200 000 metric tonnes (MT) of the staple grain from abroad.
He, however, said markets in worst hit areas, including the Shire Valley and Nayuchi in Machinga, will be opened earlier.
“We currently have an excess of over 60 000 MT of maize which should take us through to December. This is more than we started with last year when we were opening our markets when we had 51 000 MT,” he said.
Mulumbe said Admarc will be selling the grain at a subsidised price of K110 per kilogramme (kg) of until such a time when consultations on the new price are concluded.
This is the same price Admarc was selling the maize at last year and experts have argued that Admarc pricing does not make business and economic sense.
Maize prices have been on an upward spiral in recent times largely due to the impact of a 12.4 percent deficit relative to last year, which has put about 70 percent of the country’s population at the risk of starvation.
Figures from the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development show that maize output this year is estimated at 2.4 million MT.
The rising food prices, particularly maize has a direct bearing on the cost of living and Malawi’s year-on-year inflation rate, which stood at 22.6 percent in June, according to National Statistical Office (NSO).
Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito, in an interview on Tuesday, warned that continued delays in importing maize would further push up maize prices as private traders will be taking advantage of the deficit.
“If demand for maize continues to rise and the deficit on the market is not covered, private traders will find this as an opportunity to start selling maize at higher prices and if we are not careful, maize prices could go up to as high as K20 000 per 50 kg bag of maize,” he said.
In June this year, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda said government had struck a deal with Zambia and Tanzania to supply the country 200 000 metric tonnes (MT) and 150 000 MT of maize respectively.
But he indicated that Zambia maize will only be in the country in September after the elections held last Thursday.