The Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and the Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) have blamed the maize shortage in the country on poor planning by the Ministry of Agriculture and its failure to heed advice from stakeholders to prepare well for the lean period.
The two bodies said in separate interviews that government was aware of the looming hunger and was advised on how to prepare for the lean period to avert the maize crisis.
Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Felix Jumbe, on Tuesday described the Minister of Agriculture Allan Chiyembekeza as a ‘‘stubborn’’ man who could not take advice from his committee.
Said Jumbe: “If only the Ministry of Agriculture had adopted the recommendations that our committee made in November 2015, we would not have been in this pathetic situation where people are being forced to eat roots. There would not have been such queues in empty Admarc markets.”
He said his committee recommended that government should put down a detailed logistical plan on where it would buy the maize and how the distribution would be handled including realistic time frames.
“But none of this was done as the minister [Chiyembekeza] said he knew what to do hence we are now dancing to the hunger tune. Unfortunately, it is the poor person who is suffering the consequences most,” he said.
Corroborating Jumbe’s sentiments, Cisanet’s Tamani Nkhono-Mvula pointed at government’s failure to put in place mechanisms for a seamless flow and distribution of the staple food crop across the country when it was well aware of the looming hunger.
“Planning is a major gap here. When it was known that maize will be scarce, government would have put up a fund for Admarc and NFRA to procure as much maize as possible from the farmers. We appreciate that the government allowed Admarc to borrow money from the commercial banks and also set aside some money for maize imports. Farmers were also told not to sell their maize but what we saw was that though the farmers were told not to sell, they ended up selling the maize to the private traders,” he said.
The private traders are said to be keeping 208 000 metric tonnes of maize in their warehouses, according to Admarc.
Chiyembekeza could not be reached since Tuesday this week.
The Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Mvac) report of 2015 released in March last year indicated that the country’s food production would be affected due to flooding and dry spells which delayed the growing season by 30 to 40 days.
It said an estimated 124 000 metric tonnes of maize would be required at $33 300 000 to feed the food insecure across the country.
But in February, almost a year after the Mvac report was published, nine months after President Mutharika’s Sona and four months after the Parliamentary Committee on Agricultre had given its recommendations, the government is still buying maize in dribs and drabs. n