The Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) says it is proceeding with its plans to sell 100,000 metric tonnes (mt) of maize to the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (Gmaz) at the cost of $22 million.
Admarc Chairperson Alexander Kusamba Dzonzi said the maize will be dispatched to Zimbabwe beginning this month.
“The Zimbabweans have tendered the list of things they want and our operations officials are trying to get certification from various government entities like the Malawi Bureau of Standards, MRA [Malawi Revenue Authority] to get necessary import and export permits from the Ministry of Trade but, so far, the deal is proceeding properly.
“We have asked our colleagues in Zimbabwe to bring some scales for us and weighbridges so that, even if they bring 3,000 trucks in the country, we should not take long to pack,” he said.
The deal has been embroiled in controversy, with Admarc’s suspended Chief Executive Officer Rhino Chiphiko saying the deal was cancelled.
During the presidential press conferences last week, when The Daily Times asked President Lazarus Chakwera whether Admarc made a wise decision to sell the maize to Zimbabwe in the wake of a looming hunger, due to cyclones and other factors, Minister of Finance Sosten Gwengwe said the government would not sell the maize.
But Dzonzi said reports of deal cancellation arose from a misunderstanding over the Ministry of Finance’s guidance on the deal.
He accused Admarc management of blocking the deal with Gmaz to use middlemen they engaged without the blessings of the board.
“What we discovered was that Admarc management planned to deal with middlemen in selling the maize, [something] which we blocked because it would only make our maize more expensive and unattractive.
“You know, Admarc has a problem that every time we borrow money we tend to use other institutions. For example, there was a time we got a K22 billion loan from CDH Bank to buy maize; management planned to use Nasfam and Farmers Union of Malawi.
“Now that was sorted but, somehow, some people want to bring back that bad way of doing things. It’s like there is some cartel within Admarc which benefits from dealing with these middlemen,” he said.
Dzonzi backed the idea of selling the maize to Zimbabwe, saying Admarc needs the money to pay back its loan, pay its employees and create space for the maize they are expected to buy this year.
“You see, food security is the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA). Admarc is just a vender who is supposed to buy and sell. How can you keep maize for three years and be paying K300 million in managing storage, fumigation and collateral management costs every month without an intention to sell?” he said.
Gmaz Chairperson Tafadwa Musarara also told Zimbabwe’s newspaper Daily News that the deal was on and that Gmaz expected the maize to start arriving in Zimbabwe this month.
Musarara also blamed who he called a “clique of middlemen” who, he said, were in the habit of profiteering from tenders through inflating prices and demanding kickbacks here in Malawi.
“Gmaz met the Malawian Minister of Agriculture and successfully sought the requisite approval to procure 100,000 metric tonnes from Admarc Limited. Gmaz proceeded to meet Admarc CEO, chairman and other board members and successfully concluded the supply agreement. At all material times, the Admarc CEO was present, including at the signing ceremony that was done at Sunbird Vincent Restaurant,” Musarara is quoted as saying.
Once the initial 100,000mt are sold, Gmaz is expected to seek another 200,000mt until they reach their total requirement of 900,000mt of maize.
Admarc officials are today expected to meet with members of the Agriculture Committee of Parliament.