Maize prices have risen by 75 percent from K32.75 ($0.10) to K57.29 ($0.19) per kg since October last year.
According to data published by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, the price of maize increased from K55.81 in September this year to K57.29 in October 2012, representing a 2.7 percent.
The food basket, which is predominantly maize, contributes about 58 percent to Malawiâ€™s consumer price index (CPI) calculations.
The rise in the maize price, therefore, points to an increase in the inflation rate as shown recently.
The September inflation rate released by the National Statistical Office (NSO) jumped by 2.8 percent to 28.3 percent from 25.5 percent fuelled by a rise in food prices.
The cost of living in cities, according to a Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) report published in October, also points to the same.
The CfSC report indicates that the cost of living for September for Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Zomba went up since August. According to the report, the total Basic Needs Basket (BNB) for Lilongwe averaged K85 997 (about $286), Zomba K68 417 (about $228), Blantyre K76 643 (about $255), and Mzuzu K73 670 (about $245).
The steep rise in maize prices across Malawi may be good news to farmers, but Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) thinks otherwise.
FUM president Felix Jumbe in an interview on Tuesday said traders, and not farmers, are the ones to benefit from this rise in the maize prices.
“This is not necessarily good news to farmers, it is good news to maize traders who are able to hoard maize and sell it later. To benefit from these price rises, farmers should be integrated in the maize marketing chain,” he said.
Jumbe further said farmers need to form cooperatives which would warehouse and sell farm produce on their behalf.
He, however, faulted Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) for hindering the formation of farmerâ€™s cooperatives, arguing that the corporation needs to go back to farmers to manage and warehouse their farm produce.
According to the data, since May this year, maize prices have risen by 45 percent from K39.65 (about $0.12) to K57.29 (about $0.19) per kg this October.
The same data also indicates that since the 2007/8 season to date, 2008/9 had the highest average annual maize price at K54.05 (about $0.18) per kg and this yearâ€™s maize price, which is yet to peak, averages K51.81 (about $0.17) per kg. The lowest average price for the years was in 2007/08 at K25.31 (about $0.81) per kg.
Looking at the prices across Malawi, the Southern Region indicates high maize prices, a situation which is plausible based on the Famine Early Warning System (Fewsnet) recent report which indicated that 1.7 million people, especially in the South, face hunger.