Lake Malawi new route to smuggle maize, rice to Tanzania

Smugglers are now getting maize out of the country via Lake Malawi following government’s tightened security stance on roads and border posts at Songwe in Karonga and Chitipa districts, Nyasa Times has established.

For the past three years, over half of Malawi’s population has been relying on food aid such as the maize loaded on this truck at the WFP warehouse in Blantyre. -Photo:
by Lameck Masina, VOA

The smugglers have tactfully abandoned the road and are now getting the maize out via private boats and canoes at Nkhata Bay.

Nyasa Times  investigations found out that the owners of the boats are currently charging K600 (about a dollar) per a 50 kg bag of maize.

Most of those in the risky trade are vendors from Karonga, Dowa and Kasungu. According to one of them, they buy 5 kilogrammes of maize at K70.

“It is cheaper to cross the Lake from Nkhata Bay than it is to do in Karonga,” one of the vendors disclosed.

He added: “Of course, some cross the Lake through Karonga but most of us prefer Nkhata Bay because of the affordable costs. In Karonga transporters charge K800 per 50 kilogramme bag maize,” they said.

Other vendors who spoke to Nyasa Times said the routes are very risky especially when boats are not in good condition.

A source within the Malawi Police Service (MPS), said some senior police officers are part of the deal hence it is difficult to impound the maize.

“To be honest with you, we indeed get something from the vendors to let them go with their maize but this is because we don’t have a choice as the deal involves our seniors,” our source said.

Malawi’s government banned the export of maize and maize products in 2015 amid food shortages.

Apart from the Maize, Nyasa Times can also reveal that some vendors in Karonga are smuggling rice to Tanzania through Songwe border post with the knowledge of the security personnel.

The Farmers Union of Malawi said in a statement that government should  lift the export ban on maize.

The government insists that the food security situation remains uncertain and it will not lift the export ban on maize.

Joseph Mwanamveka, Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism said the government will have to assess the situation before allowing exports.

“There are surveys that need to be done and establish how much we keep in strategic grain reserve and how much should we export. We have not reached that stage yet,” he said in quoted reported by VOA. “So once it has been established that we have enough, not only for this year, because people are just looking for this year, we will be able to allow exports.”

Rafik Hajat, the executive director of the Blantyre-based research organization Institute for Policy Interaction,  also is quoted by VOA asa saying that the government is right to be cautious.

Hajat recommends the ban remain in place until the National Food Reserve has stocked at least a two-year supply of maize.

“We have no guarantee that we will have rains next year. We haven’t implemented [an] irrigation scheme as planned. So I am reminded of the dream that the pharaoh had in Egypt of seven years of plenty and followed by seven years of starvation,” Hajat says.

The Farmers Union of Malawi warns that the low price farmers are currently fetching for their maize could leave them at risk of hunger and deepening poverty as they will have to sell larger quantities of their harvests this year to make ends meet.

Meanwhile, the government has deployed the military in all border districts to enforce the export ban. Malawi’s president, Peter Mutharika, made the order two months ago after police in northern Malawi impounded over 30 trucks loaded with maize intended for illegal export to neighboring Tanzania.

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billy kabaghe
3 years ago

i once heard that the government is in process of issuing lincense to most malawian vendors. i think this can help them to export their goods safely other than taking risks by using their own means to transport maize and other goods to other countries.

mlimi wa soya
mlimi wa soya
3 years ago


3 years ago

Zambia has lifted the ban,and maize is very cheap here iwish these dealers come here,the stupid part is that there is plenty harvest,but bad market price for a farmer.

3 years ago

Comparing, this situation of maize to what other countries do is rubbish. Zambia has it’s own laws, why do we underate our country as if we don’t have educated people who can deal with the maize issue. This can help, we have to encourage famers and not to discourage them.

3 years ago

maize its true bt mbeu zinazo zisieni zituluke so that alimi asangalale jst imagine soya azigula 100 is that sense,,,,,,,,dpp ndiyankhaza kwa anthu osawuka

Hon Pwhisi
Hon Pwhisi
3 years ago

One policeman was transferred to likoma island for impounding trucks in chitipa/karonga , I think he is capable of doing a good job

3 years ago

Don’t lift the ban. Maize is strategic commodity. Even in Zambia you can’t export maize without a permit.

3 years ago
Reply to  Mwenela

If u were a maize farmer and knew hw much it costs to harvest a tone of it u would appriciate these calls of lifting the ban bt since u live on hand-to-mouth, a church mouse, shame on u.

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