Importers of maize flour can now breathe a sigh of relief following government’s suspension of import licence amid a serious maize shortage in the country.
The move comes at a time Malawi Police Service (MPS) and the Malawi Revenue (MRA) recently impounded about 500 bags of maize flour in Mchinji from traders using uncharted routes from neighbouring Zambia.
Apart from impounding the flour, the two agencies also tightened security in the border district of Mchinji to stop illegal imports despite Zambian flour providing relief to hundreds of Malawians currently unable to buy maize in Admarc markets.
Minister of Trade and Industry Joseph Mwanamvekha, in an interview on Thursday, confirmed the move to suspend the import licence requirement, saying anybody is free to import flour as one way of normalising the situation in view of maize shortage.
“My office has been inundated with applications for flour import licences. We thought it wise to just suspend this requirement immediately up to May 31 2016.
“We hope by end May, the situation will be ok and that is when we will review this arrangement,” he said.
Mwanamvekha said initially, if one applied for an import licence, it would take two to three days and some people were complaining.
Asked if government will also consider removing taxes on imported flour, he said his ministry’s role is to do with import licences and the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development will be well placed to comment on that.
Treasury Spokesperson Nations Msowoya could not be reached for comment on Thursday, but chairperson of Agriculture Committee of Parliament Felix Jumbe said he had asked Treasury to remove taxes on maize flour last week and they have responded positively.
“I spoke to the minister [Goodall Gondwe] last week and he promised that taxes on maize flour will be removed because this is an emergency. If government has a problem and the private sector is helping, government must respond because we are in a crisis,” he said.
Meanwhile, Zambian deputy high commissioner Henry Ngilazi said in an interview yesterday the country has enough maize stocks to meet its demand.
He, however, said the country is just restricting exports to verify the actual amount of grain in stock.
“This restriction is being regulated through export permits. Currently, Zambia has enough maize to meet the national demand for the commodity.”
Malawi is in the midst of maize shortage due to dry spell and floods, which reduced output of the staple crop by 30 percent. n