Despite Admarc’s assurance that it would have enough maize to supply all its markets, NationOnline has established that most of Admarc markets have no maize.
On December 16 last year, Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) acting chief executive officer Felix Jumbe told NationOnline that starting from the Christmas period, the corporation would ensure that all its markets nationwide have enough for sale.
But spot-checks in Admarc markets in the country’s major cities and townships like Chilomoni and Ndirande in Blantyre, Thondwe in Zomba, Nanjiri in Lilongwe and Kabwe in Karonga have revealed that the State grain trader has no maize for sale, a development that has pushed maize prices up among vendors who are selling it at as high as K20 000 per 50 kilogramme (kg) bag, over double the Admarc price of K7 500 per bag.
In Manase Township in Blantyre, some vendors are selling a 5-litre bucket of maize at K200, which translates to K20 000 per bag.
The scarcity is so bad that Admarc markets are rationing the maize. A source who opted for anonymity, said on Monday that ThondweAdmarc Market last received its share of 100 50kg bags of maize each market is allocated per distribution, on December 31 2019. The maize ran out the same day despite buyers being allowed a maximum of 10 kg only. Hundreds of buyers left empty-handed as the staple grain, which government has subsidised to K150 per kg, was inadequate for all.
In some markets like Kabwe, reports indicate that Admarc has not supplied maize for over a month now as vendors in the area are selling the maize at an average price of K19 000 per 50kg, translating to K380 per kg.
In an interview on Monday, Jumbe claimed that trucks are moving everyday, delivering maize to Admarc markets, but the demand is too high for the maize to last some days.
He said: “We may not have reached all markets, but we have covered at least 75 percent. So, we still have markets to cover and that was projected. We projected that mid and end January, the demand will be at a climax, so that’s the time we also have to fast-track. Earlier, we could deliver five tonnes and it was taking some three to five days before it is ran out, but now, you deliver the same, it runs out the same day.”
According to Jumbe, Admarc is also being cautious that “if we are to move as per the wish of the people, then we are increasing the chances of these businesspeople who would want to buy out and then sell us back”.
Reacting to the maize scarcity in Admarc markets, Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito described the state train trader’s processes of buying and selling of the grain as “total madness”.
He observed that Jumbe’s earlier claims that the corporation had enough maize was a total lie as Admarc it is failing to prove that it has enough stocks.
Said Kapito: “There is nobody who is coming out to say the truth. Both Ministry of Agriculture [Irrigation and Water Development] and Admarc are not truthful. It’s like we are chasing people that do not exist. They don’t understand what we are talking about.
“If Admarc had stocks, there is no way [they] could be limiting to 100 bags per market. If they had stocks, they would offload all of it on the market and that would trigger the prices to go down.”
In a separate interview, agricultural expert TamaniNkhono-Mvula described Jumbe’s earlier claims that Adrmarc would have sufficient maize in its markets from the Christmas period as “a political statement meant to please his employers that he would bring change”.
“It was a statement to make sure that they [traders] flash out the maize that was being held by traders. The reality is that Admarc didn’t have enough maize because they had entered the market very late as traders had already taken away more maize from farmers,” he said.
Currently, Admarc is selling the maize at a subsidised price of K150 per kg from K250 per kg it was buying from local traders.
Economic expert Ben Kaluwa told The Nation last month that the maize subsidy comes on top of a number of other questionable subsidies which will only balloon government’s domestic debts which are already high and unsustainable.
Government is likely to spend about K10 billion to recover losses Admarc will incur during the buying and selling of maize for the 2019/20 season as it will be claiming additional K200 per kg from 50 000 metric tonnes that Admarc intended to buy.
Initially, the minimum maize price was pegged at K150/kg. However, the price was revised to K200/kg in August before a further revision to K230/kg in October and the current K250/kg effected on November last year.
Maize is an important crop to the country, and as part of food, contributes about 45.2 percent to the Consumer Price Index, an aggregate basket for computing inflation.