The Nandolo Farmers Association of Malawi (Nfam), a grouping of nandolo (pigeon peas) farmers, has called for a suspension of the crop’s buying by Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc).
In a letter dated September 17 2018 addressed to principal secretaries (PSs) for ministries of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development and Industry, Trade and Tourism and Admarc chief executive officer, Nfam chairperson Susan Chimbayo said the immediate buying of crop by Admarc with no proper strategies to protect the farmers is disastrous.
The association’s concerns follow a statement issued last week signed by PS for the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism Ken Ndala which indicated that President Peter Mutharika has directed pigeon peas farmers to sell their produce to the State produce trader and avoid intermediaries.
The statement said government will buy the crop at K230 per kilogramme (kg), which is K90 less than the circulated minimum price of K320 per kg.
On Tuesday, the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture described the move to buy pigeon peas from farmers at this time as lacking focus, considering that the financially-stressed Admarc is not funded yet.
The local pigeon peas market was thrown into disarray in August last year after India, the world’s major importer of the legume, put an import cap of 200 000 tonnes.
The move crushed the prices locally as most farmers were stuck with the crop with no market and this also affected the government’s wider diversification plan, which involves intensification of legumes growing to supplement foreign exchange from tobacco, which is the country’s number one foreign exchange earner, but whose earnings have been dropping over the years.
India’s import cap was meant to protect local prices following record output, a development that put pressure on pigeon peas producing countries such as Malawi, Mynmar, Tanzania and Mozambique which rely on exports to India.
In an interview on Tuesday, Chimbayo said: “We have not received a response yet on the letter, we are waiting for their response for us to empty our concerns and the strategies that can be put in place to protect the farmers.”
Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism spokesperson Wiskes Nkombezi on Tuesday said that he has no information about the letter, adding that he is not aware if the minister has received the letter.
Admarc spokesperson Agnes Ndovi and Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development PS Grey Nyandule-Phiri said they were not aware of the letter from the association.
The letter states that pigeon peas farmers appreciate the directive by Mutharika, but expressed concerns that vendors would be the ones benefiting from the directive.
But Ndovi said all markets are encouraged to have village market committees which would be responsible for the activities happening at the markets.
“The market committees monitor activities of the market, if any fraud is detected and they have evidence, then they can report to the nearest police station,” she said.
Admarc is yet to disclose if it has money to buy pigeon peas.
Before the cap was introduced, Malawi was exporting about 100 000 tonnes of pigeon peas to India valued at about $60 million (about K44 billion), according to African Institute of Corporate Citizenship. n