Newly appointed Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Dr. James Munthali has issued a stern warning against the practice of hoarding maize by private traders, saying the government will pounce hard on the malpractice.
The minister was speaking during the official launch of National Association of Aggregators (NAAG) an offshoot of the Presidential Initiative on Poverty and Hunger Reduction (PIPaHR) which has been established in order to provide produce market access to Malawi’s remote farmers.
Maize in abundance
Munthali stated the country has enough food reserves which he said are largely being stockpiled by private traders.
“I’m aware of the talk going round that Malawi will be subjected to food shortages this year; let me take the opportunity to assure all Malawians that Malawi has abundant maize stocks. However, much of the maize reserves are in hands of private traders who went to farmers earlier and bought the maize waiting for prices to skyrocket later in the year so that they can make profit.
“But let me warn all those hoarding maize that as government we will not sit back and watch them manipulating the staple food’s prices, we will come hard on you because we are a government that serves the interests and welfare of common people,” warned Munthali.
He further observed that it is a ‘grave sin’ to buy a commodity at lower price, hoard it with the aim to sell it at an exorbitant price.
“It doesn’t make sense at all to buy something at 20 cents and keep it for sometime so that you can sell it at one dollar. This is a sin and like I said earlier we will make sure that we have food available in Malawi by any means possible,” added Munthali.
On formation of NAAG, the Minister urged the group to help local farmers by ensuring that their produce has market both local and international.
Added he: “I expect the association of aggregators to help farmers and not exploit them as has been the case for the past years with private traders. This association is a strategic partner in implementing President Dr. Joyce Banda’s poverty reduction agenda.”
To empower farmers
On his part, NAAG chairperson Folger Nyirongo said the association would help PIPaHR in improving the socio-economic livelihood of the poor households by empowering them financially through access to produce markets.
He said under the association, farmers should brace for better prices of their crops unlike in the past where the local farmers have been exploited by vendors.
“NAAG is an implementing agency of PIPaHR hence will institutionalize and regulate the conduct of aggregators countrywide. Apart from that we will also ensure that we are helping the government reaching out to remote areas of the country. Above all, it is our duty to also ensure that farmers are not exploited rather they are getting the best desired optimum profits for their produce,” said Nyirongo.
Bridging gov’t and farmers
Taking her turn, PIPaHR national coordinator Flora Kaluwile hailed the formation of the association saying it will help bridge the disconnect that existed between her department and farmers.
Kaluwile, who is credited for fast tracking president Dr. Banda’s poverty reduction agenda through programmes such as “a cow per family” and “two crops per year through irrigation” disclosed that the idea to bring all aggregators together was hatched following challenges the initiative faced during the initial stages of government purchasing soybeans from farmers.
“The idea of forming the National Association of Aggregators has come about due to the realization of the great impact that PIPaHR is having on farmers in the rural areas across the country. The more we make the system efficient for them, the more they will pocket honest income without any hindrances,” said Kaluwile,
She added: “We believe that whatever the case, farmers who invest a lot of time and resources in a farming practice must be served with efficiently when they dispose their produce through selling. This means that it is incumbent upon us as an initiative to utilize our aggregators’ role to facilitate such a process to the benefit of farmers.
“These middlemen, also known as aggregators, were all along operating from individualistic perspectives, with no coordination or teamwork whatsoever. In trying to normalize the situation, PIPaHR has intervened by bringing these middlemen together and institutionalize their operations.
According to Kaluwile, the association apart from linking farmers to key markets will also play a pivotal role in sourcing and distributing farm inputs.
Notable faces in the association include Senior Chief Kaomba, Steven Mwenye and Rosemary Nhlema among several others.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :