Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Irrigation Allan Chiyembekeza has disclosed that government will buy 60 000 metric tonnes (MT) of maize to replenish the Strategic Grain Reserves (SGRs) with the K8 billion which will be allocated in the 2015/16 National Budget.
This was in response to queries from opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and People’s Party (PP) members of Parliament (MPs) who demanded an explanation on how much and when the maize will be bought to mitigate against looming hunger following a 27.7 percent decline in maize production this agricultural season.
This translates into a shortfall of 123 340 MT of maize which will be confirmed in the third and final round of crop estimates.
In his ministerial statement on the outlook of crop production in the country presented to Parliament yesterday, Chiyembekeza also said Admarc would be given K4 billion to stock its grain market, buying at K100 per kilogramme from smallholder farmers.
Said Chiyembekeza: “We will be replenishing the SGRs to meet [the] shortfall, currently some maize is likely to be imported. At least 60 000 MT will be procured for the SGRs and Admarc will buy maize from smallholder farmers, but only this year’s crop. For the SGRs, we will not buy this year’s harvest.”
This was in response to PP leader in the House Uladi Mussa and leader of opposition Lazarus Chakwera who in their responses to the State of the Nation Address requested that government should provide the grain trader with funding on time.
But Dedza North West MP Alekeni Menyani (MCP) asked the minister to further brief the House the distribution plan for the maize in Admarc depots some of which he said were seasonal.
Mangochi Monkey Bay MP Ralph Jooma (PP) also said the ministerial statement fell short of explaining where the maize would be sourced and which districts have registered low maize production.
Chiyembekeza said importing maize was a long- term measure which is yet to be worked out, but once that is done, information would be provided to the public.
He said: “I will take that [districts affected] up with ministry officials responsible, that information is available.”
Chiyembekeza also reported that of the K5 billion which Parliament approved in 2014/15 budget for the procurement of maize, K4.81 billion was used to restock the SGRs with 50 611 MT while K190 million was given to Admarc which bought 2 607 MT.
Currently, the SGRs contain 44 984 MT after the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) collected 14 000 MT while Admarc got 5 000 MT.
The capacity of the main SGRs at Kanengo in Lilongwe is estimated at 60 000 MT. However, there are other silos in Mzuzu, Mangochi and Luchenza in Thyolo besides a warehouse in Limbe managed by the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA).