About bumper harvest, MBC
The economic situation in Malawi at present smacks of both revival and recession. The threat of starvation because of maize shortage is now behind us though not behind enough to make us forget the anxieties we have been through.
Some people praise the Governor of the Reserve Bank for reducing interest rates and combating inflation to lower levels. They do not seem to understand that inflation rates, currency values and interest rates are barometers of the economy. They tell us the state of the economy. They are symptoms not diseases.
Inflation has gone down because maize harvest has been big enough to push price downwards. It is what happens to the supply side of the economy that determines the levels of macro-economics; growth, interest, inflation, trade. This year farmers have produced abundant maize. The fall in the price of maize has pushed down the level of inflation. Consumers and buyers of maize are happy but farmers see foul play in this. They say prices have fallen below the costs they incurred when planting the maize. There is the dilemma for government to solve.
Profitable farming serves two purposes. It encourages farmers to keep on producing more maize for feeding the growing urban. Secondly, it encourages the rural population to slow down their drift to cities where they fail to find jobs and are tempted to engage in crimes as well as other anti-social behaviours.
Those in charge of manning the economy should take stock of what has happened. Why have we harvested a lot during this year? Why did we not harvest so much in the past two years?
Whenever possible, the condi t ions which have facilitated the bumper harvests should be identified and made available to keep on producing bumper harvests: sufficient moisture in the soil made it possible for the maize to grow.
We cannot make rain but we can stop flash floods by channelling the water into dams. Both Egyptians and Israelis are experts at irrigation. We are on friendly terms with them. Why not benefit from their expertise? The secret of making sure that there is a good harvest every year is to have sufficient moisture in the soil. This is the scientific approach to sustainable good harvests.
There is also an economic approach. This is to give farmers incentive prices. The prices must be high enough for the farmers to net sizeable profits. Moreover, there should be no fluctuations in prices, at least not drastic ones.
Americans and the French are good at taking care of their farmers through price supports and other methods of subsidies. Can we learn something from them? Let us try. For sure some armchair economists will tell us that subsidies breed inefficient producers and that we better not resort to them. Such type of advice is made by economists who come from the countries which indulge in a lot of subsidies. We must make use of common sense whether to take the advice in full, in part or reject it in total.
How must we handle the bumper harvest? Like Joseph son of Jacob, a government agency should buy enough maize and store it to last seven lean years. Do we have facilities which can preserve maize over such a period? Our research scientists should look into this or else what are their degrees worth?
If there is surplus enough to sell to other countries, we should sell it. We have known what it is to face starvation. To begrudge other countries facing the same situation is inhuman. But it must indeed be a surplus. We have in the past sold what we thought was surplus and the following year we have once more been engulfed in famine which suggests ineptitude on the part of our officials.
The proceeds from the sales should be devoted to irrigation work. Let us be vigilant against peculation. Everything should be transparent.
Why have we failed to attract Foreign Direct Investment for a fertiliser factory though such a project would have a steady market?
Radio hate campaigns are dangerous. They preceded the Rwanda genocide in 1994. The Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) is currently practising them by inviting one after another to denounce the Public Affairs Committee (Pac) for having critised the Democratic Progressive Party government record.
Justice demands audi alteram partem – hear the other side – MBC ought to give the Pac opportunity to those who denounce abuse and threaten them. This level of partisanship on the part of a state radio station is deplorable. It is exposing the Pac to hatred.
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