The country’s development partners want government to export over 100 000 metric tonnes of maize, part of which Admarc imported from Zambia in the controversial procurement deal dubbed maizegate, Nation on Sunday has learnt.
The development comes as the credit facility Admarc obtained from a local bank to procure the maize under the controversial deals worth some $34 million has expired and with government acting as a guarantor, now has to start repayment.
Additionally, Admarc also requires funds to buy maize from local farmers currently reeling under a standing maize export ban which is stifling down prices.
The situation has reportedly left scores of farmers who view the State-owned enterprise as their primary market vulnerable to predatory vendors who are now buying the grain at dismally low prices as reported in the latest edition of Weekend Nation.
In an interview after meeting Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture last Thursday, current chairperson of the Donor Committee in Agriculture and Food Security (DCAFS), Cullen Hughes, said government should also lift the export ban to ease pressure on small-scale farmers.
“We are suggesting that government should use what it has at the moment. Government is sitting on $34 million worth of maize which it can export up north. Government is on the hook with the expiry of the letter of credit and needs to start repayment and also at the same time fund Admarc to buy maize from farmers.
“The second option is for government to buy all the maize from Admarc and place it in the Strategic Grain Reserves (SGR), which will also allow Admarc to buy maize from farmers,” said Hughes.
But Hughes, who sits on the group representing United Stated Aid for International Development(Usaid), was quick to add that there was need for ‘balance’ in whatever approach government opts for, noting that any export of maize should also be tampered with caution over the possible impact the feared army worms outbreak could have on the country’s yield next year.
Chairperson of Agriculture Committee of Parliament Joseph Chidanti-Malunga said the committee shared the donor group’s position on the matter, noting that Admarc’s continued storage of the maize was costly.
“Storage means more costs for chemicals for the maize to be preserved. There are also costs for warehousing and others. We can only keep the maize for a few years. Meanwhile, we can sell the maize outside the country or put it in the strategic grain reserves to ensure we won’t lose out,” said Malunga.
Ministry of Agriculture officials were not immediately available for comment, but Admarc chairperson James Masumbu told Nation on Sunday recently that following the ban on maize exports, the corporation was left without choice but to approach government to negotiate how it can be assisted financially to settle its debts.
The ‘maizegate’ scandal cost George Chaponda the job of Minsiter of Agriculture as well as those those of Admarc’s Foster Mulumbe and Feckson Kantonga—CEO and director of operations respectively— following two separate inquiries appointed by President Peter Mutharika and Parliament, and are still a subject of criminal investigation.