Government seems non-committal to a cost sharing agreement with the private sector to grow maize to offset a 12.4 percent deficit this year.
The development has left one of the companies, Illovo Sugar (Malawi), in a fix as to whether government will honor its commitment.
Amid a food shortage in the country that is expected to affect 6.5 million people, government sought expression of interest from the private sector to produce irrigated maize for sale to government to fill the strategic grain reserves.
In the 2016/17 National Budget, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Gondwe Gondwe allocated K35.5 billion for the procurement of maize locally and abroad. Out of the amount, K6 billion was supposed to go towards winter cropping by private sector and large-scale famers.
But Illovo Sugar (Malawi) public relations officer Ireen Phalula said in an interview on Tuesday government has not yet given the compnay a go-ahead to grow maize.
She said it is imperative that the Malawi Stock Exchange (MSE)-listed company enters into an agreement with government so that it provides funding by August 31 to ease the pressure on the company as the land that is intended to be used for the maize production is also used for sugarcane growing.
“We got commitment from government that it will provide funding and expertise based on which we would start growing the maize.
“Unfortunately, government has been silent since. We only hope for a speedy implementation of the agreement,” she said.
Phalula said the company secured 405 hectares of land to be used under the agreement.
Meanwhile, the company has planted maize on 232 hectares which it intends to distribute to communities surrounding its vicinity.
Civil Society Agricultural Network (CisaNet) national director Tamani Nkhono-Mvula said yesterday government has showed little or no commitment on the matter.
“Government has not come out clear on this programme. We have noted that this is putting the private sector in a situation where they are not sure whether government will honour the agreement,” he said.
Nkhono-Mvula called on government to be focused and show commitment on critical issues such this, saying the initiative could lessen food shortage.
Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development spokesperson Hamilton Chimala had not yet responded to our questionnaire at the time of going to press. n