Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) has accused NFRA of allowing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members to jump the queue and sell their maize to the agency at the expense of other people.
FUM president Alfred Kapichira Banda told Weekend Nation in a telephone interview on Tuesday that the organisation has received complaints from farmers who have not been able to sell their maize at various NFRA depots in the country as those with connections to the ruling party bulldoze their way to the selling bay.
He said his organisation has since lodged a complaint with the Minister of Agriculture on the issue.
Said Kapichira Banda: “We are appalled by NFRA’s failure to address the problem of people with connections to the ruling party bulldozing their way to sell their maize at the expense of poor farmers. Our members have been complaining that they have been waiting for days on long queues while those with connections have no hassle selling their maize.”
In a telephone interview on Tuesday, Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture chairperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga corroborated the concerns. He said he personally witnessed NFRA’s selective handling of clients when he disguised himself as a farmer wanting to sell maize at Lilongwe depot.
“What the farmers are saying is absolutely true. I disguised myself as a farmer wanting to sell maize. I experienced what the common farmers feel whenever they want to sell maize at NFRA. It is very difficult for those that do not have names or political connections to sell their maize,” he said.
The Weekend Nation has seen two lists from NFRA that have names of sellers cheque numbers, which show that over 15 percent and 10 percent of the money has been paid to senior DPP members.
In the first list where NFRA paid out over K915 million, K173 million representing 18.9 percent went to four senior DPP members, whereas on the second list, three senior ruling party functionaries got K87 million out of K770 million translating to 11.2 percent.
However, NFRA chief executive officer Nasinuku Saukila in a telephone interview on Tuesday dismissed FUM’s claims of favouritism, saying that although NFRA there were challenges with capacity of NFRA in handling a large number of suppliers seeking to sell maize, people with no names or connections to authorities were also drawing big cheques and had the opportunity to sell.
“You must be aware that we are struggling to handle traffic volumes of between 1 600 and 1 700 trucks per day. Therefore, it is difficult to assist each and everyone,” he said.
The development comes against the background that NFRA at the 11th hour last month cancelled the bidding system for maize purchases opting for a free for all sales.
NFRA had earmarked K5.4 billion for the purchase of 80 000 metric tonnes of maize from its centres at Kanengo in Lilongwe, Kazomba in Mzimba and Bangula in Nsanje. n