Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) says it is yet to resume buying maize, four months after the exercise was suspended due to financial limitations.
Confirming the development on Tuesday, Admarc acting chief executive officer Felix Jumbe said the State produce trader is banking on an K11 billion loan facility from commercial banks to buy 50 000 metric tonnes (MT), but is awaiting government’s nod.
He said: “We are waiting for an okay from government to start buying maize. All our arrangements are done.
“Banks are just waiting for consent to borrow and guarantee from government as a shareholder.”
During the 2019/20 growing season, Admarc planned to buy 600 000 MT of maize from the market.
The parastatal planned to buy 400 000MT of maize using a K89 billion credit facility it was negotiating with Export Development Fund (EDF), a development finance institution, to facilitate the exercise.
But Jumbe said Admarc only bought 35 000MT using a K7 billion allocation it got from Treasury.
However, Admarc’s inactivity has given a leeway to traders who have been buying the staple grain at below the set minimum of price of K200 per kilogramme (kg).
The International Food Policy Research Institute (Ifpri) said in August maize prices dropped to K123 per kg. It said about 76 percent of the farmers who reported having sold maize during the period,were selling it at prices below the minimum farm-gate price of K200 per kg.
Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture chairperson Sameer Suleiman said in an interview on Tuesday that without political will, problems at Admarc will persist.
He called on the Ministry of Agriculture to issue a directive to stop traders from buying the crop at below set minimum prices.
In an interview, Farmers Union of Malawi president Frighton Njolomole said Admarc’s failure to buy maize from farmers threatens food security assome of the maize is being sold in neighbouring countries such as Mozambique and Tanzania.
On his part, agriculture expert Tamani Nkhono-Mvula on Tuesday said government sets minimum prices as an indicative threshold where the farmers can break even, but without a practical enforcement mechanism, the minimum prices are not necessary.
Maize output this year increased by 8.8 percent to 3.6 million MT from 3.3 million MT in 2018/19 growing season largely due to favourable weather conditions and an increased uptake of inputs by farmers, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
However, the results of the 2020 Food Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis indicate that 2.6 million people, or 15 percent of the country’s population of 17.6 million, will be food insecure in the 2020/21 consumption period.