Scores of local Nandolo farmers are planning to march to the Ministry of Trade and Industry to present a petition over concerns that State produce trader Admarc is buying pigeon peas (Nandolo) from private traders and highly connected political individuals.
Some local farmers invaded the residence of Nandolo Famers Association (NFAM) Chairperson Susan Chimbayo in Blantyre on Friday where they expressed concern that they are not benefiting from the new government prices of K230 per kg.
Chimbayo said in an interview with Nyasa Times that the local Nandolo farmers are not benefiting from the new prices which were set through a directive by President Peter Mutharika.
Government allocated a whopping K5 billion to Admarc to buy Nandolo from local farmers.
“These local farmers came to my house from as far as Phalombe, Thyolo, Luncheza, Thekerani, Mulanje to express their grievances and they have resorted to march to the Ministry of Trade to present their concerns and there is nothing that we can do but to support them,” said Chimbayo.
She said NFAM conducted a national verification exercise on the challenges being faced by Nandolo farmers and found out that indeed the local farmers are not benefiting from the new prices.
Chimbayo said the results of the exercise were already communicated to the Ministry of Trade for their action last month but there has not been any action by government.
“Our findings were that most local Nandolo farmers still have got their Nandolo in their warehouses and when they go to Admarc to sell it, they are sidelined because Admarc is buying from private traders and others who are politically connected,” said Chimbayo.
She said they have tried to express their concerns to Admarc and the Ministry of Trade including Ministry of Agriculture but it has fallen on deaf ears.
“We have tried to set up meetings with government to discuss the plight of these farmers but government is not interested. It is sad that government is not interested in the plight of the local Nandolo farmers and only a few and well connected individuals are benefiting, leaving out the real people who should benefit,” said Chimbayo.
She said her organisation will not stop the farmers from marching because they are being treated unfairly.
Chimbayo also said Admarc acting chief executive officer Margaret Roka Mauwa refused to recognise NFAM, which speaks on behalf of Nandolo farmers, saying she is working on directives from government and do not recognise Nandolo Farmers Association and its associates.
“I spoke to Mrs. Mauwa on these issues and she blatantly told me that she cannot recognise Nandolo Farmers Association because she was working on directives from government,” said Chimbayo.
Vice-President Saulos Chilima, who is also leader of the United Transformation Movement (UTM), claimed during a recent political rally that some politicians and their cronies were the target beneficiaries of the presidential directive.
On September 26 this year, the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture asked Admarc to disclose the source of the K5 billion allocated to the purchase of pigeon peas.
In response, Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development representatives, who also attended the meeting, said Admarc is buying pigeon peas outside the 2018/19 National Budget and that the ministry does not know where the corporation will get money for the procurement of the legumes from.
However, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe later said Admarc would repay the funds sourced from Unforeseen Circumstances Vote.
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