Retail maize prices jumped by 13 percent in April compared to the previous month, a development agriculture policy think-tank says is contrary to the usual pattern of falling prices in anticipation of harvest.
The International Food Policy Research Institute (Ifpri) maize market analysis indicates that by the end of April, retail maize prices averaged K209 per kilogramme (kg), which is 22 percent higher than same month the previous year.
In the policy note, Ifpri said: “Maize continues to sell at highest retail prices in the South. However, maize retail prices in the Centre sharply increased in the first week of April 2022 towards an average of South retail prices.
“As at the end of April, prices in the South averaged K219 per kg or 11 percent higher than last month, in the Centre prices averaged K212 per kg or 18 percent higher than last month, while in the North, prices averaged at K186 per kg or 18 percent higher than last month”.
During the review month, retail maize prices were highest at Liwonde in Machinga District, selling at K260 per kg and lowest in Rumphi, selling at K175 per kg, according to Ifpri.
In an interview on Monday, Grain Traders and Processors Association president Grace Mijiga Mhango attributed increased maize prices to the enforcement of new minimum farm-gate prices of K220 per kg.
“There is that clear directive that no one should buy below the minimum price. Due to this, you notice that the prices have been pushed up because people know that no one will be allowed to buy below K220, which is one of the contributing factors,” she said.
Mhango said had it been that the country was exporting maize, the price increase could have been attributed to the influence of external market factors.
She said Malawi has enough maize, explaining that there is currently no alternative maize market because in the African region, maize prices remain low and for traders to export, they may be attracted to the price of K230 or K250 per kg.
“I don’t see any country now that can buy maize at K250 per kilogramme, so there will be slow uptake of maize perhaps until later in the year,” said Mhango.
Last month, Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe urged all district councils, local leaders and all security agencies to assist the ministry to enforce the minimum prices.
In the report, Ifpri said ‘new’ maize harvested this season averaged K182 per kg in April, 13 percent cheaper than ‘old’ maize.
This is 33 percent higher than ‘new’ maize in April 2022 and 21 percent lower than minimum farm-gate price set by government mid-April this year.
Maize, as part of the food component, accounts for 45.2 percent of the consumer price index, an aggregate basket of goods and services for computing inflation.