Grain Traders and Processors Association of Malawi faces a race against time to export maize to regional markets as the lean season is fast coming to an end.
The fears follow the partial lifting of the maize export ban by the Ministry of Trade.
The association’s chairperson Grace Mijiga-Mhango said in an interview on Tuesday that with the maize export permits only valid for three months, prices of the staple grain are dropping as the lean season is coming to an end both in Malawi and the ready market in Zimbabwe.
She said: “As grain traders, we do have ready markets, but the window is short because we have to move the grains within the next two months.
“The other problem is that prices are dropping because we are heading towards end of lean period for both Malawi and Zimbabwe [the only live market for now].”
The association’s figures indicate that maize prices are highest in Mozambique at $320 (K250 000) per metric tonne (MT), $300 (K234 000) per MT in Zimbabwe, $180 (K140 000) per MT in Zambia and lowest in Tanzania at $150 (K117 000) per MT.
On the local market, maize is selling at at K160 000 per MT.
In an interview on Tuesday, agriculture development policy analyst Tamani Nkhono-Mvula said with the current prices, maize exports will not give a good return if sold in small amounts.
“If one wants to do a commercial production of maize, they will break even if they increase the scale; otherwise with this kind of price ranges, maize cannot turn to be a commercial crop,” he said.
The Malawi Government imposed an uninterrupted maize export ban from 2011/12 until the end of 2017. In early February 2018, government reintroduced the ban to preserve the national grain reserve and stem the impact of tighter domestic supplies.
A World Bank analysis on the impact of grain trade policies in Malawi faulted the grain export bans for lowering domestic maize prices.
Last week, Ministry of Trade partially lifted the maize export ban to mop up last year’s maize stocks to create space for the anticipated more than one million metric tonnes (MT) surplus grain.
In a statement, the ministry advised interested exporters to apply for export licences to enable them export the staple grain.