A newspaper columnist and analyst on business matters has argued that smallholder farmers in Nandolo (pigeon peas) crop are short-changed and getting “a raw deal”.
Veteran journalist Aubrey Mchulu writing in The Nation was commenting on a presidential directive for State produce trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) to buy pigeon peas at K230 per kilogramme (kg) .
He also balanced his views with the reaction by Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture to the presidential directive which it described as ill-timed as well as Nandolo Farmers Association of Malawi-a grouping of pigeon peas farmers-call for the suspension of the purchases by Admarc.
The columnist pointed out that Admarc, is financially struggling as it recently got a K45 billion bailout from Treasury, failing to buy maize, its mainstay, due to lack of funds.
“ Where has Admarc found the market for the pigeon peas? Where has it sourced the funds to ‘buy’ the nandolo?” wondererd Mchulu.
“In my view, the biggest loser in the whole deal is the smallholder farmer who is helplessly watching the vendors or ‘middlemen’ who bought the crop from them for a song pushing truckloads to Admarc markets.
“I smell a conspiracy where ‘big boys’, in the name of the poor farmer in Nyezelera, Phalombe, are engaging in some sort of organised crime to siphon public funds by way of laundering through Admarc. How else can one explain this?” wrote the columnist.
Picture this true story, he continued to write: “A peasant farmer sold her nandolo to a vendor at K40/kg only three weeks ago. She sold 26.5 bags each weighing 50 kg at K2 000/bag and earned a paltry K53 000. The vendor, obviously a ‘big boy’, is selling the same to Admarc at K230/kg or K11 500/50kg bag, making a cool K9 500 profit from each bag. If this is not a raw deal (‘theft by tricks’) then what is?
“People entrusted with public office should be making decisions that are for the general good of all and sundry, not a few chosen few. Farmers should be motivated and rewarded through competitive prices, based on market forces.”
In a letter dated September 17 2018 addressed to principal secretaries (PSs) for ministries of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development and Industry, Trade and Tourism and Admarc chief executive officer, Nandolo farmers chairperson Susan Chimbayo said the immediate buying of crop by Admarc with no proper strategies to protect the farmers is disastrous.