The Civil Society Agriculture Network (CisaNet) has attributed the absence of alternative produce markets as one of the contributing factors that make farmers not adhere to farm gate prices.
CisaNet chief executive officer Pamela Kuwali in an e-mail response on Tuesday said as a result of the absence of such markets farmers sell their produce at much lower prices offered by vendors often at a loss.
The reactions were in response to the release of the 2018/19 farm gate prices the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development on Sunday.
The new farm produce prices in some commodities are higher than previous years while in some of the commodities the prices have remained the same. However in some commodities the prices have gone down.
But according to Kuwali, one of the ways through which farmers can benefit from the prices offered is if government begins to procure from farmers immediately.
She said it is important that government makes a budget provision to begin procurement now and not wait until the budget is passed to ensure farmers benefit from the public procurement.
She said: “It is also important to ensure that the procurement process is open, transparent and accountable and accessible to all smallholder farmers.
“However, we notice that some of the prices are slightly higher than what was recommended during consultations.”
Besides, in view of a projected bumper harvest this year, Kuwali said without proper enforcement mechanism, forces of demand and supply may play resulting into farmers selling their produce at lower prices than those recommended.
Ministry of Agriculture and Water Development on Sunday released the prices for main commodities with maize pegged at K150 per kilogramme (kg), sorghum fetching at K200/kg, pigeon peas at K330/kg, cotton (grade B) at K300/kg and dried and wet cassava at K220/kg and K60/kg respectively.
The price of mixed beans is at K340/kg, pure beans K420/kg, cowpeas at K370/kg, sunflower seeds is at K310/kg, wheat at K350/kg, finger millet at K300/kg and pearl millet is at K200/kg respectively among some of the main commodities.
But in his reaction on Monday, Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) president Alfred Kapichira Banda, said despite the prices appearing tempting for farmers who would like to sell their produce, government must ensure that the farmers are not exploited.
In response to Kapichira Banda’s sentiments, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Principal Secretary Grey Nyandule Phiri, said as a control measure, the ministry attaches conditions to permits issued to traders to buy farm produce at the recommended prices.
“One of the conditions is adherence to minimum prices and if that is violated, then the law will take its course. If we also find someone buying without the permit, again the law will take its course,” said Phiri. Over the years, farmers have complained of exploitation from unscrupulous traders despite existence of minimum prices.