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.
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.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :