Local umbrella body of farmers and farmer organisations, the Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) has asked government to take advantage of the competitive maize prices in east Africa by openning an export window for maize.
The body argues that maize prices in eastern Africa ranging from $300-$740 per metric ton (MT) are competitive and can allow government to recover the costs incurred and make good margins if Admarc is allowed to export some of its current stock and quickly move back on the domestic market to play as a price leader on the domestic market.
In a media statement, FUM president Alfred Kapichira Banda said this will ease pressure on the domestic market and allow demand for maize to pick up which will push up maize prices to the benefit of producers.
“We encourage government to use the commodity exchanges for maize prices exports for it monitors the volumes to ensure transparency on the maize export process,” said Banda.
The farmer’s body further calls on Admarc to prioritise most of its domestic maize purchase direct from farmers to create a healthy competition with private traders as opposed to procuring it from private traders.
While appreciating that government reason for imposing an export ban is in good faith which is to ensure that Malawi is food sufficient and as a risk management tool, Banda said decisions about whether to sustain or lift the ban do not adequately consider the impact on farmers.
But Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism Joseph Mwanamveka has maintained that only commercial maize farmers are allowed to export the grain upon being issued with an export license.
Speaking in an interview with Business News, Mwanamveka said any person or farmer who wants to export maize should have evidence that the maize was bought specifically for export.
“We are saying no to exporting maize bought from farmers who benefitted from the Farm Input Subsidy Programme [Fisp].
“We are ready to issue a license to anybody should they grow maize specifically for commercial purposes,” he said adding that there is no guarantee that there will be enough food in the 2017/18 growing season.
Recently, the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) also questioned government’s export limitations saying it reduces the market for farmers who have the potential to export and defeat the purpose of regional integration.
Calls by FUM come amid reports that this year Malawi is expected to produce more maize compared to last year.
However, according to the second 2016/17 Agriculture Production Estimates Survey (Apes) released by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, maize production will slightly drop this year, although the first round crop estimates projected maize production at 95 683 MT, which is an increase of 81 percent from 52 799 MT realised in 2016.