Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) has accused government of ‘politicising’ this year’s maize procurement, saying the buying process has benefited few maize traders and farmers.
The accusation comes following the decision by the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) to stop buying the grain from traders, and instead refer them to State produce trader, Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc).
The suspension of maize purchases by NFRA prompted maize traders to petition the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, to take the matter to government.
The traders said NFRA directed them to sell their maize to Admarc, which is mandated to only buy produce from smallholder farmers.
In an interview on Thursday, FUM president Alfred Kapichira Banda said the suspension of maize purchase by NFRA is a clear indication that government has ‘politicised’ the maize purchases, arguing that smallholder farmers currently have no maize to sell to Admarc.
“The problem is that government has politicised this whole [maize purchase] process and it is aware that most of the smallholder farmers have no maize to sell to Admarc because they already sold their maize to middlemen. And it is obvious that these maize traders will not be allowed to sell their maize to Admarc,” he said.
Efforts to get comment on the matter from government spokesperson Nicholas Dausi proved futile as his phone could not be reached.
In a separate interview, one of Lilongwe-based maize traders, Phillip Kambalire, echoed Kapichira Banda’s sentiments, saying the suspension has put them under panic.
He asked government to buy their maize, which he said is already in NFRA depots.
“It is unfortunate that government lifted the maize export ban weeks before they stopped buying maize from us. We have a lot of maize which we are failing to sell anywhere, within and outside the country. What we are asking is that they should finish buying our maize, which is already at NFRA depots, because we have to pay transporters as well,” he said.
Asked whether Admarc will consider buying maize from traders, Admarc spokesperson Agnes Ndovie said the corporation’s mandate is to buy maize from smallholder farmers and not traders.
She said Admarc will continue with its plans to buy maize from smallholder farmers.
Reacting to the development, Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture chairperson, Joseph Chidanti Malunga attributed the maize sales chaos to the late lifting of the maize export ban and high supply of maize on the market which could not accommodate funding government allocated to NFRA and Admarc.
He said after receiving the petition, the committee had talks with authorities from the ministry.
“Right now we are resolving the issue. We just have to understand, let everyone sell their maize to Admarc,” said Malunga.
He further said it is high time government started reserving funds for Admarc to buy maize on time.
Last week, Treasury released K7.5 billion to Admarc to buy 30 000 metric tonnes from smallholder farmers in 337 Admarc markets nationwide, at K170 per kilogramme.