By Chimwemwe Mangazi, Feston Malekezo, Mathews Kasanda & Jarson Malowa
Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc)’s announcement that it may move some maize from the Northern Region to regions where its concentration is low has attracted the ire of various stakeholders.
Speaking when she engaged members of the Public Accounts Committee (Pac) of Parliament on Tuesday, Admarc Head of Human Resources and Administration Ethel Zilirakhasu indicated that the corporation has more maize stocks in the Northern Region than in other administrative regions, notably the Southern and Central regions.
Zilirankhasu said the grain marketer needs at least K400 million to move the maize from areas of high concentration to areas of low concentration for sale to people that need it.
However, in random interviews Wednesday, Abraham Mbewa from Chiputula Township in Mzuzu said some people in the Northern Region are food insecure.
“Most of us have no maize stocks at home. If people do not have maize at home, it means there is no household food security. Therefore, Admarc cannot ferry maize from its outlets here [the Northern Region] because we equally need maize,” he said.
Spot-checks conducted in Mzuzu City indicated that maize prices are ranging from K23,000 per 50 kilogramme (kg) bag to K25,000.
At Enukweni Admarc, a sizeable crowd was spotted buying the commodity yesterday.
One of the buyers, Victor Nyirenda, said February and March are the most crucial months when hunger is at its peak.
In Rumphi District, Walita Mkandawire said the decision to move the maize to other regions is not welcome.
“To make matters worse, most Admarc depots here rarely open, which means people are forced to buy maize from vendors, who sell the commodity at exorbitant prices,” he said.
On average, a 50kg bag of maize is selling at K26,000 in Rumphi District.
A snap-survey we conducted in Lilongwe indicated that a 50kg bag of maize is selling at as high as K25,000.
This price is against the K15,000 set by Admarc.
In Zomba, a 50kg bag of maize was being sold at K30,000.
This was true at Chinamwali, Mpondabwino and Zomba Central markets, where, ironically, the commodity was fetching K25,000 last month.
At Mpondabwino Market, Lidia Mankhokwe of Nachuma Village, Traditional Authority Chikowi, lamented the situation.
“Admarc is not helping us. We last bought maize at the depot in early December last year. We would like to have the commodity at Admarc’s main depot because it’s affordable,” she said.
Information we gathered in Zomba indicated that Zomba Admarc Depot last had the commodity between December 1 and 4 2022.
Such developments have prompted some stakeholders to call for re-alignment of strategy at Admarc.
For instance, African Institute for Corporate Citizenship Chief Executive Officer Driana Lwanda said Wednesday that financial management issues at the corporation should be looked into.
“This creates a lot of mistrust on management of resources, especially at this point where the institution is not cleared from all the issues surrounding it. The best that should happen is for the government to seek support on the issue of logistics, instead of bankrolling Admarc,” Lwandwa suggested.
In a separate interview, corporate governance expert Pharison Chiphinga Mwale said Admarc’s core function is buying produce from farmers and reselling it when the need arises.
He said the institution has financing options used to carry out such core functions.
“Admarc makes a budget of all its financial activities incorporating financing plans, including bailouts. With proper planning, no activities come as a contingency. Managing an institution is about planning and decision making. Without proper planning and sound decision making, Admarc will not graduate from government bailouts because there will be no strength for organic sustainability. Admarc management needs direction and focus on key performance indicators,” Mwale said.
However, another corporate governance expert, and former Admarc company secretary James Kaphale, said the institution is justified because there is more maize in the Northern Region as opposed to other parts of the country.
“Management of the parastatal has justified its action to say the ferrying of maize is becoming expensive because of transactional costs in ferrying the maize as transporters have adjusted upwards the price for ferrying the maize from K90 per tonne per kilometre to K145 per tonne per kilometre. This adjustment has nothing to do with management as they have completely no control over [transportation costs,” Kaphale said.
Maize grain takes up over 50 percent of the country’s Consumer Price Index, an index used to calculate the inflation rate.