Private sector tells Malawi govt to open up maize exports

Malawi Confederation of Chambers and Industry (MCCI) has told the government to open up maize exports or make farmers poorer than ever before.

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MCCI President Karl Chokotho said this on Thursday when he opened a trade fair in Lilongwe.
“We have recently seen tendencies by Government to stand in the way of  businesses that want to export excess maize. This situation has sadly resulted in extremely poor prices for the crop, yet across the border in Tanzania maize is in great demand, and selling at three times the official minimum price in Malawi,” said Chokotho.
Chokotho reminded the government of its economic policy which is to turn this country from an importing and consuming nation into a producing and exporting nation.
“We are aware of Government’s sensitivities that if it doesn’t rain normally next agriculture season, the country may face the likelihood of shortage of our basic food commodity and perhaps experience famine,” he said.
The MCCI chief said the private sector appreciates that consideration but that stance should not be taken at the expense of farmers who day in day out toiled to grow the maize for purposes of earning an income,” said Chokotho.
He said in essence the ban or restricted export of maize is making the local farmer poorer, saying in Wednesday’s newspapers, average prices quoted for maize ranged from K60 to K140 per kilogram despite the Government instituting a minimum price of K170 per Kilogram.
“This is because although Admarc is supposed to be buying the commodity, it has limited financial capacity. As a matter of fact,
Admarc was in the market for only two weeks and has since run out of cash, thus leaving farmers desperate,” said Chokotho.
He therefore told the government not continue supressing the market for maize by not allowing exports, saying this was killing the
initiative for farmers to grow more maize next year.
“In any case farmers are unlikely to buy inputs in the coming season because of these poor prices,” said Chokotho.
In response, minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Francis Kasaila described maize production in the country as complex.
He said the government heavily subsidizes maize production in the country through the subsidy program therefore the government has much interest in maize production than the private sector.
“The majority of maize production in the country is done by smallholder farmers who are subsidized by the government, this is why
we have a lot of interest in this matter,” he said.
He said the government would also like to ensure that there is enough maize in the country to take through the country to another planting season.
The Ministers therefore called for an emergency meeting between the government and the MCCI officials and other stakeholders to discuss the issue.
“Let all stakeholders take this as a matter of urgency,” said Kasaila who stood in for minister of Trade and Industry Henry Mussa who is reportedly in Japan on official duties.
At least 30 companies are exhibiting their products in 60 pavillions mounted at Capital City mall.

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