Delays by State produce trader Admarc to buy pigeon peas (nandolo) have forced some smallholder farmers to sell the legume at K130 per kilogramme (kg) to vendors instead of the K230/kg President Peter Mutharika directed.
Spot-checks at Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) buying point at Luchenza in Thyolo on Thursday showed that the desperate farmers were selling pigeon peas to intermediaries just outside the Admarc establishment to avoid extra charges incurred with each day of keeping the hired vehicles used to ferry their produce.
One of the farmers Madalitso Kamowa from Makwasa in Thyolo said he sold two tonnes of his pigeon peas produce to intermediate buyers.
He said: “I came here on Tuesday and the vehicle owner is demanding double the money we agreed. Instead of going home with K460 000, I have only made K260 000 which is a loss for me.”
In an a separate interview, Khajavo Producers and Marketing Cooperative chairperson Shadreck Soza and his Khonjeni Producers and Marketing Cooperative counterpart Master Musunge, from Mulanje and Thyolo, respectively, claimed that Admarc is buying pigeon peas from politicians and big traders only at the expense of smallholder farmers.
Soza said his cooperative, which brought 1 000 50kg bags of the legume sourced from 373 farmers, arrived at Luchenza Admarc last week Sunday after the State produce trader confirmed that they would buy their pigeon peas on Monday. But as of Thursday, he said, they had not yet sold.
He observed that out of over 50 truckloads of pigeon peas that were parked outside the Admarc premises as at 4pm on Thursday, only four belonged to farmers’ cooperatives, while the rest were for politicians and large-scale traders whose names he did not mention.
Said Soza: “It seems Admarc has its preferred people from whom they want to buy. No single cooperative has sold its nandolo to Admarc. Surprisingly, a certain minister and MP [member of Parliament] just came and ordered Admarc to buy nandolo from some selected trucks.”
He said some Admarc officials have been demanding K1500 per bag to assist them to sell, but Soza could not accept the offer as he needed to consult all 373 farmers in the cooperative.
According to some traders, Luchenza is the only depot where Admarc is buying the legumes in the Southern Region.
One of the traders, Haroon Suleman, sold 140 tonnes of his nandolo on Wednesday afternoon, just four hours after arriving at the depot.
Asked how he managed to sell so quickly, Luchenza-based Suleman, who had bought the legume from smallholder farmers at prices ranging from K100 to K120 per kg, said the business needs someone who is aggressive.
He said: “The market is open to the general public and sometimes it needs one to be vigilant enough to sell your products. It has nothing to do with politics. I had to by-pass the normal processes.”
Admarc acting chief executive officer Margaret Roka Mauwa declined to comment on the pigeon peas transactions at Luchenza depot.
She referred the matter operations manager Garnet Gwembere whose phone was out of reach on several attempts.
Vice-President Saulos Chilima, who is also leader of the United Transformation Movement (UTM), claimed during a recent political rally that some politicians and their cronies were the target beneficiaries of the presidential directive.
On September 26 this year, the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture asked Admarc to disclose the source of the K5 billion allocated to the purchase of pigeon peas.
In response, Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development representatives, who also attended the meeting, said Admarc is buying pigeon peas outside the 2018/19 National Budget and that the ministry does not know where the corporation will get money for the procurement of the legumes from.
However, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe later said Admarc would repay the funds sourced from Unforeseen Circumstances Vote.