Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has proceeded with plans to import maize despite local traders having started selling the grain to Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc).
The ministry set a November 25 deadline for local grain traders to sell their maize to Admarc at a revised price of K250/kilogramme (kg) from the initial K230/kg, failing which the ministry would import the grain.
Although grain traders have started selling maize to Admarc, the State produce trader’s board chairperson Felix Jumbe says the slow maize flow has compelled the ministry to issue an invitation for bids for supply and delivery of 50 000 metric tonnes (MT) of white maize.
The notice states that the bids will be opened in the presence of bidders or their representatives who may choose to attend the opening on December 27 next month.
In an interview yesterday Grain Traders and Processors Association president Grace Mhango said traders started supplying maize to Admarc, mostly in town, last week.
She admitted that the progress was initially slow as Admarc had inadequate funds to pay suppliers.
Said Mhango: “Last week, Admarc ran out of money and that slowed down deliveries. But for this week, the money is available. We will assess by Friday if deliveries will improve.”
She said she was not surprised with government’s move to import the grain because the flow of maize has been slow.
“I’m sure they are taking caution because the flow of maize is too slow. Furthermore, the local prices being offered are above import parity and so their action is justifiable,” said Mhango.
As of Monday, she said the association had only 14 out of over 204 traders who declared their stocks estimated at 96 000 MT.
But Jumbe in a separate interview denied claims that the State produce trader ran out of money last week, saying the slow progress was due to logistical problems and inadequate labour force in Admarc depots.
He said when traders deliver the maize, trucks go to weighbridge before offloading, which needs labour force; hence, the slow progress.
Jumbe backed government’s move to invite bids for supply and delivery of 50 000 MT, saying the country needs a lot of maize which local traders alone cannot afford to supply.
He said: “All that the local traders have will be taken because the country needs a lot of maize which should be distributed between now and April. Every avenue will be explored to ensure that money is available, the maize is available and that nobody dies of hunger, as the President [Peter Mutharika] has said.”
Initially, the minimum maize price was pegged at K150/kg, but the price was revised to K200/kg in August before a further upward revision to K230/kg in October and the current K250/kg effected this month.
Currently, the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA), which manages the Strategic Grain Reserves, has in stock only 25 000 MT.
This is against the projection that NFRA, by now, should have had 217 000MT comprising 95 000MT buffer stock, 8 000MT emergency stocks, 76 000MT safety net stock for non-emergency response and 38 000MT stabilisation stock.
Maize production, which accounts for the bulk of the country’s cereal output, is estimated at abou 3.4 million tonnes in 2019. The harvest is 10 percent abouve average of the past five years.
However, the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee analysis conducted between June and July 2019 showed that about 1.1 million people will face food insecurity as the country enters the lean period from October 2019 to March 2020.