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Admarc maize price up by 37%

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The Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) on September 17 opened most of its markets across the country with a new price of K110 per kilogramme from the old price of K80 per kilogramme, representing a 37 percent hike.

The public grain marketer is also implementing a rationing system of a maximum of 20 kilogrammes per buyer.

The hike means a bag of K50 kilogrammes now costs K5, 500, up from K4000.

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However, the hike is likely to steer less protests from the buyers as the new Admarc price is on the lower side when compared to the maize prices prevailing on informal market.

The basic needs basket the Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) released a week ago indicates that on average a 50-kilogramme bag is selling at K8 000, which puts a kilogramme at about K160.

A snap check in the city of Blantyre last week indicated that some of Admarc’s selling points were open.

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In some depots, we found a small number of people buying the staple while in others the attendants were seen just sitting idle as they waited for customers.

However, some depots had already exhausted their share and the Admarc workers in those selling points were waiting for the next delivery.

Some buyers we managed to speak with at Ndirande Admarc depot said the selling process had started well and there have been no struggles thus far.

Admarc spokesperson, Agness Chikoko-Ndovi, warned that the available maize is meant for household consumption and not for the businesspersons.

“This maize is being subsidised so that people can afford. But the fact that people can afford doesn’t mean that businesspeople should take advantage of the situation to buy more for their business,” Chikoko-Ndovi said.

She justified the 20-kilogramme rationing system, saying due to the news of looming hunger this year, some people may be thinking of buying in bulk and selling at an expensive price later.

“For a person who is genuinely buying maize for household use, 20 kilogrammes is enough. A family can buy 20 kilogrammes of maize and use that for some time before going back to the market.

“We ask the media to report any cases of malpractice in our markets. The general public should also be alert and if they notice that vendors are buying maize from our depots, they should let us know and we will take appropriate action,” she said.

Chikoko-Ndovi said Admarc has put up an in-house monitoring system apart from working with the Anti- Corruption Bureau (ACB).

According to her, every grain of maize that the grain marketer imported and bought locally has been exposed to the market.

“Locally, we bought around 25,000 to 27,000 metric tonnes and we imported about 30, 000 metric tonnes and that’s the maize that we have been distributing to our holding depots across the country. The maize is available and we just ask people to be responsible and guard against vendors,” she said.

According to National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) Chief Executive Officer, Nasinuku Saukira, as at close of business on Wednesday last week, the National Strategic Grain Reserves (SGR) contained 46,550 metric tonnes.

“But bear in mind that we are also procuring to keep us afloat. If you recall, some three weeks ago we said we had 36,000 metric tonnes now we are talking of that figure, which means we are growing. The growth is due to what we are buying,” Saukira said.

On how long the available maize can last, Saukira said although NFRA is part of the process, the authority to determine rests in the hands of many departments.

Meanwhile, the Department of Disaster Management (Dodma) has said the distribution of relief food items will begin in October.

Dodma spokesperson Jeremiah Mphande said the items, which are expected to be distributed up to March next year, will be given to the 2.8 million people that are at risk of hunger.

However, in Central Region maize sales remain suspended.

A visit to Chilambula Admarc Depot in Lilongwe on Thursday confirmed that selling was not taking place although maize could be seen in the warehouses.

However by Thursday last week, Admarc depots in Mzuzu, Mzimba and Karonga were yet to be stocked though reports indicated that ferrying of the grain to the markets had already started.

An Admarc official in Mzimba revealed that they delayed the maize purchase from farmers thereby creating room for vendors who have since bought almost all the grain from farmers leaving them with no stock to sell to government.

Meanwhile, vendors in the Northern Region have warned of high maize prices due to scarcity of the staple grain in most areas in the region.

Deus Banda, who plies his trade at the Zigwagwa Market in Mzuzu, on Thursday said he struggled to get maize in Mzimba and Rumphi last week.

“Our seasoned farmers have already run out of stocks so we should brace for tough times ahead, needless to mention that this scarcity automatically means high prices,” Banda said.

Lumbani Kamanga of Karonga shared Banda’s sentiments. She reported that in the district, a 20-litre pail of maize is going at K2, 300 but there is high possibility that the prices will go up.

President Peter Mutharika last week conceded that the country’s maize production this year dropped by 27.7percent due to combined effects of drought and floods.

Before he left for New York for the 2015 UN General Assembly last week Mutharika revealed that the country needs K83 billion for emergency food response to help 2.8 million Malawians facing acute hunger.

Additional reporting Deogratias Mmana, Mandy Pondani and Sebastian Nyirenda

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