Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chief whip Simon Vuwa Kaunda has cautioned government against exporting surplus maize, saying there is no assurance of a bumper yield in the next harvest.
He was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday in reaction to Minister of Finance Felix Mlusu’s earlier announcement that government has lifted an export ban on maize.
Vuwa Kaunda said government invested a lot in Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) and there is need to ensure that the output benefits the country and not feeding other countries.
He argued that many Malawians do not have food as they have no farmland as such, government should reduce the price of maize by half so that every household can afford the staple.
Government allocated K160.2 billion for 4.2 million AIP beneficiaries but spent K142 billion after a screening exercise of the beneficiaries in the Ministry of Agriculture database brought the figure down to 3.7 million.
In an interview later, Kaunda feared that government may also lose out if it exports maize as farmers will sell it at lower prices compared to the investment that government made in the AIP.
He urged government to assess if there is sense in exporting maize whose production was heavily subsidised.
Said Kaunda: “We have to ensure our people are well taken care of. In the lakeshore areas, the problem is not just fertiliser or seeds but land. People do not have land where they can cultivate the maize.
“For these people, it is hard for them to buy a bag at K8 500. So, government should reduce the price of maize rather than exporting it. Let us make the maize accessible those that cannot afford.”
The DPP chief whip further urged government to learn from past experience where some people were buying maize
from farmers and kept it in
warehouses to be exported at the expense of the country’s citizen suffering hunger.
However, the Finance Minister justified the lifting of the maize export ban, saying Admarc will buy enough maize from farmers to ensure that the country is food secure.
He said farmers will sell to Admarc the excess maize, adding government will monitor the exports to ensure that the money comes back to Malawi.
Said Mlusu: “This is why we will capacitate Admarc to buy maize from farmers. Farmers will only keep maize for consumption. Anything in excess the market will be there.
“When Admarc buys that maize it will not only keep for itself because almost everybody will have the stock in their homes. So, we are saying from this year we will allow business people, Admarc included, to export maize to any market they find.
“Obviously, we will make sure that this is done in an orderly manner, very transparent and ensure there is accountability for any exports that are done. We want the money that they get after selling should come back into the country. Systems have been put in place because what we are doing is for the benefit of the country.”
In the Mid-Year Budget Review Statement, the minister said government assisted Admarc in September 2020 to access a financing facility from the banks to the tune of K22 billion.