State-run grain trader, the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc), is yet to start purchasing maize, a situation market experts say would make vendors leverage on to dupe farmers.
This comes at a time farmers in some parts of the country, especially in the Southern Region, have started harvesting the commodity, which is Malawi’s staple crop.
In an interview on Monday, Admarc spokesperson Agnes Chikoko Ndovie said the institution has not started buying maize from farmers due to high moisture content in the grain.
“We are ready, we already have part of the funds to use in the process, but we are waiting for our experts to tell us when to start, especially when the moisture content in the grain reduces,” Chikoko Ndovie said.
The development has prompted agriculture experts to challenge Admarc to source technologies that would help reduce moisture content in the grain.
Africa Institute for Corporate Citizenship Chief Executive Officer Driana Lwanda said Admarc is justified to be reluctant in buying the maize because, if they do, they are likely to make a 10 to 40 percent loss.
“Admarc holds the key to regulating the market so that farmers are not exploited. If Admarc shows intent to buy through an advert or just a notification that it will start buying, farmers will hold on to their maize and other traders will continue to buy and increase prices. Zimbabwe has already declared hunger, which means there is a great market to export to Zimbabwe; so, Admarc can use this as an opportunity,” Lwanda said.
Agriculture expert Tamani Nkhono Mvula said the government should consider putting maize prices according to how dry the grain is.
“If they (Admarc) start buying now and offer the set K220 per kilogramme, it means half of that money is on buying water in the grain but Admarc, as a big company and one that is supposed to serve the farming community, should have mechanisms on how to dry the maize because even maize requires that it is properly dried.
“Perhaps government could address this issue by pegging different buying prices to different levels of moisture in the grain,” Mvula said.
A month ago, the government announced farm-gate prices for the 2022 season, with minimum price for maize set at K220 per kg, up from K150 per kg in 2021.