Government has deployed police in Lilongwe to confiscate maize that vendors are buying from farmers.
Police are snatching maize and weighing scales from any vendor they come across, a move widely believed to encourage vendors to sell their maize to State grain marketer, Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc).
Although police feigned ignorance about the move, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Erica Maganga on Wednesday defended it.
Said Maganga: ‘‘If you have a licence to buy, the police will not confiscate the maize from you. The police are doing that to protect the farmers because most of the vendors have no authority to buy [the maize].’’
But Central Region Police spokesperson Ramsy Mushani said his office has no information concerning the exercise.
Maganga said Admarc was one of the licensed buyers of maize at the official price of K140 per kilogramme (kg).
But the farmers are being lured by higher prices that the vendors are offering ranging from K200 to K250 per kg.
Government in March gave Admarc a guarantee to borrow K8.9 billion to purchase maize.
Government said the guarantee was aimed at enabling Admarc to access the maize at the time other traders buy from farmers against the background of a maize shortage in 2015/2016 season.
The Ministry of Agriculture second Agriculture Production Estimates Survey (Apes) released last month shows that the country will have a maize deficit of 12.8 percent compared to last year against the national requirement of 3.2 million metric tonnes.
Police have mounted a road block at Bunda Turn-off and are confiscating maize from any vendor.
A maize trader in Mitundu Adam Chimangeni told Weekend Nation on Wednesday the police have been confiscating the maize and weighing scales and telling them to stop buying maize from farmers so that they sell it to Admarc.
But he vowed there is no way police can stop them from buying maize as there was no law refraining them from doing so.
The development has also forced some farmers to sell their maize at night.
Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture chairperson Felix Jumbe told the Weekend Nation in an interview on Thursday that he fears police would be confiscating maize from people who are harvesting their maize instead of unscrupulous vendors.
Jumbe explained that it is difficult to have a special by-law on who should buy maize from farmers because a lot of people buy maize from farmers at Mitundu Market from farmers that are willing to sell their harvests to earn money. n