Barely months after going about looking for maize to fill a local harvest deficit, State produce trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) is considering selling some of its stock to Tanzania and Kenya.
The impending move follows inquiries on the same from the two East African countries.
Kenya and the neighbouring Tanzania approached Admarc last month to sell them some maize following the food shortage they are experiencing, according to information The Nation has sourced.
About one million people are facing hunger in Tanzania while Kenya is reportedly facing the worst drought in recent history with government estimating the number of acutely food insecure people at 2.7 million.
In an interview on Wednesday, Admarc board chairperson James Masumbu confirmed the pending deal.
He said the two countries approached the State produce trader, but there have also been discussions at government level.
Said Masumbu: “What we did was that when we were approached we referred them [Kenya and Tanzania] to government. But that is one of the key issues to be tackled by the board when we meet but for now we really are not sure how much we are going to sell to these countries.”
He said while Admarc would have loved to sell the maize to recover the money, the current position and that of government is that the matter should be put on hold first.
Explained Masumbu: “What we have actually decided in the interim is that we should wait until after we have harvested and we are able to see in terms of what we have then a decision will be made but that will not be earlier than the month-end of April.”
Currently, Masumbu said, Admarc has around 100 000 metric tonnes of maize bought both locally and from Zambia.
“It could be more, but not so much because we have had 106 000 metric tonnes for sometime but a few tonnes have so far been sold so we would safely say we have around 100 000 metric tonnes,” he said.
But consumers have been shunning Admarc maize opting to buy the staple grain from vendors who are selling at lower prices unlike Admarc’s K12 500 per 50kg bag.
Commenting on the issue, Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture chairperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga said they were aware of Admarc’s plans to find ways to dispose of the maize.
He said the fact that they had found markets in Tanzania and Kenya was a good development because they need to pay back the loans they got.
“Given the fact that if they don’t sell the maize they will have a backlog which perhaps they may not find a better use of so those are commendable efforts because they will be able to pay back the loans,” said Malunga.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) deputy secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka said if there was an opportunity to sell the maize and recover the cost, it was welcome as long as everything is done in a transparent manner.
He said: “However, I think that should not obscure the controversy surrounding the procurement of the maize from Zambia, we still need to pursue that religiously.”
In October last year, Admarc said it had spent K22.4 billion which it borrowed from commercial banks to locally source about 100 000 metric tonnes of maize which it dispatched in its depots.
It also borrowed about K26 billion from Eastern and Southern Africa Trade and Development Bank, commonly known as PTA Bank, for the purchase of the maize from Zambia.
However, it transpired that the Zambia deal was fraudulently transacted with just around 4 000 metric tonnes of maize being imported. The matter is currently being investigated.
According to Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development’s annual economic report 2016, over the years Admarc has remained poor with figures showing that its total revenues in 2015 shrunk to K9.9 billion from K11.2 billion in 2014.
Thus, the financial position of the corporation worsened by 307 percent from a loss of K169.4 million reported in 2014 to a loss of K914.3 million in 2015.
Its liabilities also increased from K8.7 billion in 2014 to K10.2 billion in 2015.