Local maize prices continue to rise, averaging K250 per kilogramme (kg) or K12 500 per 50 kg bag, Business News has established.
This is way above government’s recommended minimum price of K220 per kg or K11 000 per 50 kg bag.
During the same period last year, maize was fetching K140 per kg or K7 000 per 50kg bag.
Business News spot-checks in various produce markets nationwide showed that both last year’s maize and this year’s yield are fetching the same prices.
In an interview on Wednesday, a maize trader at Chirimba Market in Blantyre, James Kadango, said rising transport costs have contributed to the rising prices.
He said: “We usually buy our maize from Dedza, but recently, transport costs have been eating into our profit margins.
“At this rate, I wouldn’t be sure if prices will come down because this being the harvest season, prices automatically come down.”
Karonga-based consumer Margret Nyirenda said they are buying a 50kg bag at K15 000 unlike last year when she would buy the same quantity at an average of K8 000.
Speaking separately, Consumers Association of Malawi executive director John Kapito said the rising maize prices point to continued challenging times for consumers.
On the other hand, Agriculture commentator Tamani Nkhono Mvula observed that the increase in most cases is mainly based on speculation that maize production will decline this year due to weather shocks.
He said: “Most farmers who would want to be buying fertiliser at that time [August] will be selling at a far much higher price to cover high production costs.
“So, most traders are trying so hard to stock as much maize as possible at this price.”
Nkhono has since urged government to ensure that State agencies the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) and Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) have enough maize to be released to the market to cushion consumers from escalating prices.
Meanwhile, Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FewsNet), a United States Agency for International Development-funded activity, has also projected high maize prices as macro-economic conditions in Malawi continue to worsen.
In its April 2022 Malawi Food Security Outlook, the firm said food and non-food prices are expected to increase through-out the outlook period, thereby limiting household purchasing power and access for food.
According to FewsNet, maize prices are higher than the five-year seasonal averages owing to increasing inflation pressure, below-average harvest prospects, and a higher-than-average farm gate price set by the government for the 2022 maize buying season.
Ministry of Agriculture figures show that as of December 31 2021, the country had a total supply of 1 693 997 metric tonnes (MT) of maize which were shared among farmers, private traders, NFRA and Admarc while the total maize requirement for January to March 2022 was projected at 861 868 MT.
Maize, as part of the Consumer Price Index—a measure of price change in a basket of constant quantity and quality of goods and service—contributes 42.5 percent to the inflation basket.