The year 2019 was never short of controversy as far as Malawi’s maize availability is concerned.
While the country celebrated a bumper maize harvest, the maize paradoxically‘disappeared’ into the thin air as the market was left with a short supply.
The situation remained dire, especially towards the end of the year as prices sky-rocketed to as high as K300 per kilogramme (kg) in November 2019, representing a 103 percent higher than the prices observed in November 2018.
Although the country was hit by the devastating Cyclone Idai in March, maize production somehow demonstrated someresilience as it increased by 24.4 percent from 2.7 million metric tonnes (MT) in 2017/18 to 3.4 million MT in 2018/19 season.
T h e i n c r e a s e d production was largely attributable to favourable weather conditions and the increased availability of seeds and other inputs.
This meant, th\erefore, that the country had recorded a maize surplus of about 700 000 MT, but which was never felt at least going by the forces of demand and supply on the market.
Market forces at play
Towards the end of the year, the availability of maize on the market f e l l s h o r t o f t h e excess demand for the commodity. This exerted enormous pressure on the market, sending prices up the roof.
As of end-September, these prices were about 67 percent above the five year average based on the Malawi VulnerabilityAssessment Committee (Mvac) report.
P a r l i a m e n t a r y C o m m i t t e e o n Agriculture chairperson Sameer Suleman claimed that the vendors were hoarding 86 000 MT a g a i n s t 17 000 MT held by Agricul ture De v e l opme n t a n d Marketing Corporation (Admarc).
Ad m a r c a n d t h e National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) usually purchase maize and other crops, to stabilize prices to maintain stocks in SGRs and to serve as a buffer against food shortages.
However, over the years, such purchases have been inconsistent and unpredictable.
Irked by the conduct of maize traders, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Principal Secretary Grey Nyandule-Phiri hinted that it will import maize i f t r ader s cont inue hoarding the grain.
T h e s t a n c e b y g o v e r n m e n t w a s supported by the GrainTraders Association and Processors chairperson Grace Mhango who said that the traders were playing mind games in the maize business.