Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) has commended the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) for setting aside funds for the procurement of 150,000 metric tonnes of maize locally, saying the move will save the country the much needed forex.
Malawi is about to experience food drought as a result of the dry spell which weather experts said has been caused by the El Nino weather pattern.
In a statement made available to Nyasa Times on Thursday, Cisanet National Director, Tamani Nkhono-Mvula said buying maize locally would reduce the amount of money the country spends in
procuring the commodity from other countries.
“It is also worth mentioning that sourcing the maize locally will save the country of the much needed foreign exchange as huge volumes of the same were exported to neighbouring countries as Admarc tried to fill in the gap of the maize shortage of the 2014/2015 season,” noted Nkhono-Mvula.
“The 150,000 metric tonnes of maize if bought and released on the market in good time will help to lower prices and prevent many from queuing for days as it is projected that the 2015/2016 harvest will reduce due to the impact of the El Niño”.
The El Niño global weather event has caused prolonged dry spells across Malawi with little or no rain falling in many areas during the window for the planting of cereals such as maize and the outlook is
Nkhono-Mvula has however noted with concern that Admarc is sourcing the 150,000 metric tonnes of maize from the private traders as per the tender notice published in the local daily newspapers of 6th April, 2016.
“It should be stated in very clear terms that Admarc is entrusted with the responsibility of buying and selling agricultural produce from farmers in Malawi as a social responsibility, among its other
functions. As such Admarc becomes very critical in the alleviation of poverty of most rural farmers when it buys their produce at the government set minimum price”.
The early presence of Admarc on the market, Nkhono-Mvula noted, also makes competition to be genuine as players compete for the commodity(maize), and the farmers thereafter benefit from good prices on offer.
“The stand taken by Admarc to buy maize from private traders will leave the rural poor farmers at the mercy of vendors who buy the grain at less than the government set minimum prices,” he said.
According to Cisanet, private traders in some parts of the country are buying the recently harvested maize at as low as MK60 per Kilogram when the government minimum price is set at MK160 per Kilogram.
Nkhono-Mvula added: “In other words, the rural poor farmers will continue to be exploited by vendors and thereby worsening their poverty even despite selling their produce. It should therefore be pointed out that Admarc should not abrogate its social responsibility of buying and selling agricultural produce from farmers in Malawi”.
He has since demanded Admarc to open all its rural markets and buy the maize directly from farmers so that they are saved from exploitation by vendors while at the same time ensuring that their poverty will be reduced when they earn reasonably enough from the sale of their produce.
Meanwhile, Cisanet has welcomed government’s intentions to engage the private sector in irrigation maize production for the Strategic Grain Reserves in an attempt to guarantee food security in the country.
Government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, recently issued a statement calling on the private sector and individual producers interested to venture into large scale maize farming for the 2016/2017 consumption season and beyond.
Cisanet has however warned that the strategy to increase maize production and to stock the country’s Strategic Grain Reserves (SGR) to ensure national food security should not squeeze out the
smallholder farmers from the lucrative market to sell for the SGR.
The organisation has proposed the development of an initiative that will open a new avenue of investment in the local business in the irrigation sector which should deliberately provide space for the smallholder farmers to be part of the venture.
“We propose that the smallholder farmers should be allocated at least 30 percent of the expected supply, which may be grown under rain fed while the large scale farmers should take up the remaining quota. National Food Reserve Agency can buy this 30% quota allocated to the
smallholder farmers through Admarc”.