Malawi has turned to neighbouring Tanzania and Zambia to purchase 70 000 metric tonnes (MT) and 30 000MT of maize respectively on the basis that local maize “might be” expensive.
The Nation has established that Malawi has dispatched a six-member delegation to Tanzania for the mission.The delegation left the country on Monday through the Malawi-Tanzania border post at Songwe and had the first deal sealed after meeting the Tanzanian minister and principal secretary of Agriculture in Mbeya.
After sealing the first deal, the Malawi delegation proceeded to Songea to inspect the first stocks of maize expected to be shipped into the country.
The delegation is being led by Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Principal Secretary Bright Kumwembe and comprises National Food Reserve Authority (NFRA) general manager Nasunuku Saukira as well as Messrs Wilima (Ministry of Finance) and Kantonga (Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation).
Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development controller of agricultural extension services Wilfred Lipita said in an interview on Monday government turned to Tanzania and Zambia because buying in Malawi could have affected the price of maize at the current situation.
He said the prices of maize in Tanzania and Zambia were slightly lower than those offered in Malawi.
Said Lipita: “The prices of maize in Tanzania are not different from Malawi, but if we buy locally the price might jump because some traders might take advantage of the situation to speculate the prices.
“Malawi maize currently is selling at an average of K100 per kilogramme.”
He said the maize that will be bought will be sold and some will go into the strategic grain reserves (SGRs).
“We are not saying there is no maize, but we do not want to be in a situation where we will have no maize in the event of any crisis like what we experienced last year,” he said.
Lipita said the Tanzania government agreed to sell Malawi about 70 000MT of maize, adding that Lilongwe intends to buy about 100 000MT in total.
He said the delegation that left for Tanzania will negotiate for a good price.
However, The Nation checks in Tanzania have revealed that maize is selling at the equivalent of $0.50 (K215) per kilogramme (kg) while in Malawi the staple grain is going at around K100 per kg.
A Tanzanian journalist said in the 2014/15 growing season, Tanzania harvested over 11 million MT of grain, translating into a surplus of 1.2 million MT. However, he said some regions are already facing famine.
Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe told Parliament that government had allocated an estimated additional amount of K13 billion (US$28.9 million) to be spent on maize purchases during the 2015/16 financial year.
But president of Grain Traders Association of Malawi, Grace Mhango, said government should have just come out in the open and say that they have opted for importing.
She said at the last check last week, private traders had about 30 000MT of maize.
Said Mhango: “It is not an issue of pricing rather beefing up the stocks, local traders have plus or minus 30 000 metric tons of stocks.”
On pricing, Mhango said she does not know how much government would be buying the maize in Tanzania, but said if logistics costs, total cost of government-to-government doing business are to be factored in, the maize in Tanzania might be landing expensively.
In April this year, the Ministry of Agriculture announced that the country’s maize production will decline by 27.7 percent courtesy of the January floods that affected 15 of the country’s 28 districts, destroying crops, washing away bridges and killing and displacing people. The ministry also blamed drought in some parts of the country for the poor harvest.
The ministry also announced the formation of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Hunger Situation, which was tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that the public have access to food in spite of the production shortfall.
In the 2013/2014 agriculture season, Malawi produced about 3 978 123 MT and the forecasts put the country’s production at 2 898123 metric tons in the current season.
The ministry further indicated output decreases in other major food crops such as rice with 13.6 percent, millet, 11.9 percent, cassava, 1.1 percent and sorghum, 9.3 percent.