The Zambian government on Thursday impounded 90 metric tonnes (MT) of maize and 30 MT of maize flour that was being smuggled into Malawi through that country’s Eastern Province.
In April this year, at the height of maize shortages, the Zambian government also intercepted 28 trucks loaded with maize destined for Malawi.
According to Zambian media, any miller found exporting maize to neighbouring countries risks having their contracts terminated and their names blacklisted.
In Zambia, maize is a controlled commodity, which requires companies to have export permits.
In an interview at Livingstone in Zambia, Eastern Province permanent secretary (PS), who is also a member of the country’s presidential multi-agency task force on maize and food security, Chanda Kasolo, said because of porous borders, Zambia is losing out on revenue which maize exports are expected to bring.
He said apart from tax evasion, unscrupulous traders steal from Malawians by charging double the price of the commodity.
“They are buying maize at 80 Zambian kwacha [about K5 678] and selling it double the price in Mchinji [Malawi],” said Kasolo.
He, however, refused to reveal identities of the impounded trucks and their owners, saying doing so would compromise investigations.
Kasolo said initial investigations have revealed that smugglers use a transit point in Vubwe that acts as a mealie-meal (maize flour)selling point.
PS for Lusaka Stardy Chibaula Mwale said it is difficult to stop the smuggling because of the geographical set-up of the two countries.
“We have Zambians who are farming in Malawi and vice-versa which makes things a bit difficult,” he said.
In April this year, Zambia temporarily suspended maize exports to deal with local shortages pending verification of stocks as it was concerned about sharp price increases due to smuggling into Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Because of drought and floods which affected the country early this year, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development projected a maize requirement of 1.3 million metric tonnes to avert a food crisis this season.
The needed requirement included 790 000 metric tonnes specifically for populations severely affected by drought.
Malawi is this year reeling from a 12.4 percent deficit in maize relative to last year due to El Nino-induced drought that hit most parts of the country.
Zambia maize and flour flooded the Malawi market at the peak of food shortage last year before both governments moved in to stop the illegal trade between the two countries.
Meanwhile, Vice-President Saulos Chilima on Thursday launched the 2016/17 National Food Security Response at Nyamitalala Primary School in Traditional Authority (T/A) Mbenje in Nsanje.
The programme is meant to cater for 6.5 million people in need of emergency assistance nationwide.