Malawi has recorded the highest maize prices compared to other countries across the world, according to the March 2013 World Bank Food Price Watch.
The Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) has since attributed the increase the maize prices on the market to the dry spell that hit most areas and hoarding of the staple crop by private traders , among others.
According to the report, Malawi recorded a 43 percent increase in maize prices between October 2012 and February 2013 and 47 percent between February 2012 and February 2013.
The report attributed the country’s maize price increase to production shortfalls in the past year, strong export demand from neighbouring countries and depreciation of the currency.
Trailing Malawi was Zambia with a national average increase of 23 percent mainly because of seasonal factors.
Large increases between 15 percent and 20 percent were observed in markets in Uganda as a result of increasing imports and public purchases and in Honduras and Nicaragua due to seasonal factors.
In contrast, the Food Price Watch indicated that decreases in maize prices reached 44 percent in Somalia and in other monitored markets across Kenya, South Africa and Ethiopia, all reflecting increasing supplies.
In February this year, the Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) Basic Needs Basket indicated that between the months of January and February 2013, the prices of maize in the cities of Lilongwe, Blantyre and Zomba went up by an average of 55 percent.
In other areas in Blantyre, however, consumers were buying the maize at a whopping K10 000 (about $25) per 50 kilogramme bag.
The maize prices have since gone down by at least half in most parts due to this year’s harvest that has started trickling in into markets.
Spot checks in some markets such as Ndirande in Blantyre found maize selling at K100 per kilogramme, which translates to K5 000 (about $12.50) per 50 kilogramme bag.
Said Cisanet executive director Tamani Nkhono-Mvula: “Although Malawi registered a surplus in terms of national harvest, this harvest was not evenly distributed. There were other areas that did not harvest at all due to dry spells and other factors. These areas depended on the market for food supply and the increased demand for maize increased the prices on the market, especially urban markets.”
Nkhono-Mvula observed that due to Admarc’s delays in purchasing maize from the farmers soon after harvest, traders bought from farmers at give away prices thereby creating scarcity of the maize on the market.
Since 2006, when Malawi started implementing the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) which enables farmers to access inputs such as fertiliser at lower prices, Malawi recorded the highest yields in maize production.
Maize, Malawi’s staple food, controls 50.2 percent of the consumer price index and has a macroeconomic destabilising force if in short supply.