The scarcity of maize in Admarc depots has prompted vendors in some local markets to sell the staple at as much as K360 per kilogramme (kg), translating to K18 000 per 50kg bag.
Spot-checks The Nation conducted in Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) depots in the country’s cities of Blantyre, Zomba, Lilongwe and Mzuzu established that the State produce trader is not selling maize.
On the other hand, vendors in local markets such as Manase and Machinjiri in Blantyre, Balaka, Luwinga in Mzuzu and Area 36 in Lilongwe are selling maize at between K290 and K360 per kg, translating to between K14 500 and K18 000 per 50kg bag from K12 500 per 50kg bag last month.
But in an interview on Sunday, Admarc chief executive officer Felix Jumbe insisted that the corporation has adequate maize inflows being supplied by local traders which he claimed is enough to feed Malawians.
Asked why the staple grain is not available in most Admarc depots, Jumbe said the State produce trader is first targeting areas that were heavily affected by disasters last growing season.
He expressed optimism that by the end of this month, Admarc will supply over 7 000 metric tonnes (MT) to its depots nationwide.
Said Jumbe: “Maize is available and we don’t want maize to stay at one corner and [portray] a picture like there is no maize. For example in Chitipa, we have over 3 300 metric tonnes and what they need for consumption is only 400 metric tonnes. So, we have to intensify the transfers of stock to other areas like Karonga which [does not have] enough stock. It’s a matter of doing the logistics.”
As of November this year, the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA), which manages the Strategic Grain Reserves (SGR), had in stock only 25 000 MT.
This was against the projection that NFRA, by then, should have had 217 000MT, comprising 95 000MT buffer stock, 8 000MT emergency stock, 76 000MT safety-net stock for non-emergency response and 38 000MT stabilisation stock.
But Jumbe claimed that the moment Admarc raised the maize price to K250, traders started releasing their maize, such that the corporation sometimes ran short of money because local traders supplied more than expected.
He said: “From the private sector, maize is being released at a pace that [is assuring us] that there will not be this hunger that we are talking about. It’s just a theory but practically we have enough maize within.
“On top of that, NFRA has released 4 000MT to ensure that over the Christmas period ,every Admarc depot should have maize.”
Commenting on the matter, Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito expressed shock, saying government is taking too long to rescue poor Malawians who cannot buy maize at K360 per kg.
Said Kapito: “If they have maize, why is government not coming in to intervene? Right now, consumers are paying even about K18 000 to K20 000 a bag of 50kg. How many can afford that in Malawi?
“We are asking government, if you have maize and there is maize; please bring it to the market because people are now suffering. They cannot afford the current prices.”
Initially, government set the minimum maize price at K150/kg. However, the price was revised upwards to K200/kg in August before a further revision to K230/kg in October and the current K250/kg effected last month.
Maize is an important crop to the country, and as part of food, contributes about 45.2 percent to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), an aggregate basket for computing inflation.
Maize production, which accounts for the bulk of the country’s cereal output, is estimated at about 3.4 million tonnes in 2019, making a rebound from the reduced output of 2018. The Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee analysis conducted between June and July 2019, showed that about 1.1 million people will face food insecurity as the country enters the lean period from October 2019 to March 2020.