The Budget and Finance, and Agriculture and Natural Resources committees of Parliament have asked government to cast its net wide in procuring maize to replenish Strategic Grain Reserves (SGRs) to fight hunger in the country.
This follows revelations by the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) that there is only 14 000 metric tonnes (MT) in the SGRs, which is against the recommended 217 000MT, comprising 95 000MT buffer stock, 8 000MT emergency stock, 76 000MT safetynet stock for non-emergency response and 38 000MT stabilisation stock.
Budget and Finance Committee chairperson Sosten Gwengwe, whose committee visited the SGRs last week, said in an interview it is high time government considered other suppliers of maize to prevent hunger.
Parliament approved K10 billion in the 2019/20 National Budget for NFRA to buy maize for the SGRs, but during the visit, the committee learnt that the money has not been used because there are no maize suppliers on the market.
Gwenge said: “We understand that the K10 billion we approved has not been used yet because of issues of suppliers. To save people, the best government can do is to open up the tendering process. Let those people who have maize come along and sell to NFRA.”
NFRA chief executive officer Nasinuku Saukira told Budget and Finance Committee members last week that the money allocated to them in the 2019/20 National Budget is idle because there is no maize to buy.
He said despite calling for tenders and increasing the buying price twice, the suppliers never brought maize although they promised to do so.
Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture chairperson Sameer Suleman said in a separate interview there is need for government to cast its net wide and buy maize from other countries.
“The issue is scarcity of maize. We have advised government to purchase it outside of Malawi but unfortunately all our neighbours do not have maize to sell and that is the reason government is now trying to buy maize flour,” he said.
Meanwhile, agriculture analyst Tamani Nkhono-Mvula has described the current stock as a dangerous situation.
He said: “What surprises me is that the procedures are clear that the SGRs need to be replenished at least three months of any drawdown. When the drawdowns are being made, a replenishing plan should already be in place.
So, for us to reach less than 10 percent of the required SGR amount in a crucial period like this one, can only show lack of foresight and to say that we are in this situation because they failed to buy the maize is very unfortunate.”
He added that Malawi has food deficits that require the intervention of NFRA and plans to have a full SGR in December, January and February must always be a priority.
Last week, Saukira told the Budget and Finance Committe that apart from the K10 billion government allocated to them, they had a carry-over of K2 billion and that from the K10 billion, government gave them K1 billion but still they haven’t bought any maize.