Ministry of Agriculture says it is pondering exporting one million metric tonnes (MT) of maize surplus anticipated to be realised this year.
The projected surplus islargely attributed to the K140.2 billion Affordable Inputs Programme which benefited 3.4 million farming households and goods rains.
Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe said in an interview that they have teamed up with the ministries of Finance and Trade and state produce trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) to discuss best maize surplus export modalities.
He said: “We are trying to find potential markets outside the country and very soon we will be announcing about possibilities of countries buying maize from us.
“Additionally, in terms of managing the post-harvest losses among small-scale farmers, we will ensure Admarc comes on the market early because if it comes late more maize will be lost.”
In a separate interview, minister of Trade Sosten Gwengwe confirmed that government will open up maize exports using export mandates.
“We are waiting for the gazette notice to come out anytime from now. We are not only targeting maize, but also a few other cash crops whose exports have not been organised in the past,” he said.
Gwengwe said export mandates are used to ensure that foreign exchange is repatriated back after the exports.
National Association of Smallholder Farmers in Malawi (Nasfam) chief executive officer Bettie Chinyamunyamu has cautioned government not to be carried away with the surplus, but manage it well to benefit farmers and the economy.
She said: “Whenever there is excess supply and government closes the borders barring exportation, it suppresses prices on the local market which does not benefit smallholder farmers.
“It is the excess supply that needs to be exported, international prices are rewarding and if private traders are allowed to export, there is a risk that we may over export and create food shortage.”
Chinyamunyamu said past experience shows that a bumper harvest is followed by acute food shortage because the export markets are not properly managed.
The recent Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) Synthesis Report on the State of Food and Nutrition Security and Vulnerability found that the number of starving people in Malawi has more than doubled to 2.7 million in 2020/21 season from 1.1 million last year season.
Based on the Sadc statistics, it means that 13 out of every 100 people in rural areas face hunger in the 2020/21 consumption season.