Shortage of maize flour has hit most big shops in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe and commercial city of Blantyre as the price of the staple grain, maize, continues to rise on the market.
Spot checks conducted in Chipiku and Sana shops and some Peoples stores in the two cities showed that there was no flour on the shelves and, every time it was available, customers were scrambling for it.
Chipiku shop manager Jay Vachani on Wednesday said they last received maize flour mid February.
“Our customers are complaining, but there is nothing we can do because we also access the product from somewhere,” he said.
Sana shop manager Kalebe Zikabuma said it has been a week since the shop last stocked flour.
“Last week when we had the flour, some people wanted to buy as much as four bags and we had to ration. I believe some of the buyers were vendors who wanted to take advantage to sell the commodity at a higher price,” he said.
Zikabuma said when they enquired from their main suppliers, Rab Processors Lilongwe branch, they were told they have not yet received any stocks from Blantyre.
In Lilongwe Old Town, Peoples shop attendants revealed that once the flour has been offloaded and put on shelves it is selling like hot cakes.
“Within an hour of restocking the shelves, you find that the shelves are empty. I suspect that most of the buyers are vendors who are reselling the flour in small packs,” said the attendant.
Rab Processors marketing manager Douglas Mandala said most of the buyers might be vendors or other traders who want to hoard the product and sell at a higher price.
“As Rab Processors, we are running normally and producing the quantities that we produce. What is happening now is that maize flour is cheaper than maize and some businessmen are taking advantage,” he said.
Mandala said a 50 kilogrammes bag of flour is selling at K8 500 (about $24) while that of maize in some areas is selling at as high as K10 000 (about $28) creating a huge demand for maize flour.
Bakhresa Grain Milling business development manager Ranjan Priya said due to maize flour shortages, there is always high demand for wheat flour, but added they are managing to satisfy all their customers.
“We stopped milling maize flour, but history has shown us that normally when maize flour is in short supply there is high demand for wheat flour,” said Priya.
The country has been experiencing maize shortages with the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Mvac) estimating that 2.5 million Malawians are facing hunger.
In Lilongwe, Admarc, the state grain marketer, has been rationing maize to 10 kilogrammes per customer to meet the rising demand.