Dodgy agents, informal traders wreck Malawi maize stability



from MAVHUTO BANDA in Lilongwe, Malawi
LILONGWE, (CAJ News) MALAWI, although confirming an increase in maize production compared to previous years, is tightening screws on informal maize traders importing maize grain to neighbouring countries, lest shortages set in.

The move comes as almost the entire Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc faces deficits of the staple commodity, a development that has resulted in price increases.

“Government has taken such steps to avoid any previous scenarios whereby Malawi maize flows to neighbouring Mozambique and Zambia through informal cross border trade,” Kondwani Nankhuma, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, said.

The minister said as the SADC region had been heavily affected in terms of maize production, prices had been pushed up as traders attempted to get hold of the grain hoping to exploit the international markets.

Government also denounced some maize buyers, traders and/or middlemen who started procuring maize lower than the minimum farmgate price of MK150 (US$0,21) per kilogramme set by the administration for this year.

“Government condemns such traders for exploiting farmers and foiling government’s motive of incentivising agricultural production of smallholder farmers,” Nankhuma said.

The results of third round Agriculture Production Estimates Survey (APES) indicate that maize production is at 3,391 million tonnes, representing 24,7 percent increase when compared to the 2017/18 final round estimate of 2,69 million tonnes.

Nankhuma said according to the country’s Strategic Grain Reserves (SGR) guidelines, it was recommended that the SGR size should be 217 000 tonnes.

This comprises of 95 000 tonnes buffer stock, 8 000 tonnes emergency stock, 76 000 tonnes safety net stock for non-emergency response and 38 0000 tonnes stabilisation stock.

Nankhuma assured the country had enough maize stocks and was food secure.

However, the food situation is worsening for approximately 40 000 refugees and asylum-seekers following a cut in the amount of food assistance they receive.

The situation has been triggered by the flow of refugees into Malawi following political instability and social unrest mainly in some parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Burundi.

World Food Programme (WFP) was in May forced to reduce by half the food rations it provides to refugees and asylum seekers due to insufficient funding.

Current maize stocks are due to run out in December while supplies of other food commodities will be completely depleted in October without additional funds.

WFP urgently requires $1,7 million to resume full rations.

Benoit Thiry, WFP Malawi representative, appealed for continued backing from donors.

– CAJ News

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