State-owned grain marketer, Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc), is expected to bounce back on December 1 with the opening of all its depots across the country to facilitate the selling of maize.
The reopening of Admarc depots will come exactly three months after the parastatal got abruptly closed on August 30 by the then-Minister of Agriculture, Lobin Lowe, due to what he described as high levels of corruption, theft and professional negligence at the institution.
Speaking in Parliament on maize sales by Admarc, Agriculture Minister Sam Kawale said the grain marketer will be selling the staple grain at K300 per kilogramme (kg) or K15,000 per kg.
Kawale expressed optimism that the coming back of Admarc will help bring down maize prices, which have hit record highs in recent weeks, trading at as much as K30,000 per 50kg bag in some areas.
“We are going to flood the market so that there is a huge supply of cheap maize which is going to bring down the prices.
“We are also aware of the existence of some people who take advantage of Admarc’s cheap maize to connive with maize vendors to buy in bulk and sell at a higher price,” the minister said.
Asked who would man the Admarc depots following allegations that it was the same Admarc staff that used to connive with unscrupulous traders to buy maize at night and sell it at a premium, Kawale said a human resource audit of the institution has been completed and that it will help remove bad apples from the institution.
“We are putting in place measures to ensure that the people who are going to be selling the maize are trustworthy. We also have committees around Admarc depots. We are going to activate them to ensure that maize doesn’t go to wrong people,” he said.
Mangochi South West lawmaker, Shadric Namalomba, asked Kawale about the quantity of maize Malawi has in stock, to which the Agriculture Minister replied that there are 82,000 metric tonnes [mt] within the country’s borders.
According to Kawale, 58,500mt of maize are with the National Food Reserve Agency while the remaining 23,500mt are with Admarc.
Kawale was also asked whether Admarc will ration maize sales this year due to the high demand for the commodity.
The minister said government has not yet made a decision on the possibility of rationing the staple grain.
He also disclosed that after the restructuring, Admarc will remain with between 1,000 and 1500 staff members who are “enough to serve Malawians”.
“The number of people who will be recalled will be adequate to serve every Malawian. We had an organisation with over 4,000 people, yet the only ones who were effective were about 1,000 or 1,500.
“Obviously, there was no way the institution could function because the rest was just dead wood. They were there just to receive a salary and not to make the institution tick,” Kawale said.
During Monday’s sitting, Finance Minister Sosten Gwengwe told the House that government will pay salary arrears to Admarc employees who have been on paid leave for three months.
The closure of the parastatal, which allegedly happened without the knowledge of key officials such as Secretary to Treasury Macdonald Mafuta Mwale and Comptroller of Statutory Corporations Peter Simbani, followed an investigation that unearthed what was later judged as gross abuse of the parastatal’s resources.