Grant Traders Association of Malawi (GTAM) has lashed out at some companies involved in trading of agriculture commodities for what it calls creating hunger in the country.
In an interview, GTAM president, Grace Mijiga Mhango, claimed the traders deliberately bought all the maize from farmers, and hoarded it for longer than necessary.
She further faulted the government for not containing the situation by failing to enforce provisions of the Special Crops Act.
“The problem is the way our market is conducted; people buy maize and hoard it longer than necessary to create false alarms that there is hunger. Yes we have food shortages but they are not as big as portrayed.
“Maize is a protected product and the government should also enforce the law because in the end, it is the farmers that are exploited. These traders should invest in the farmers or engage them in contract farming,” Mijiga Mhango said.
Reacting to an emailed questionnaire, spokesperson in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Priscilla Mateyu, said Malawi is a liberalised economy.
She said the government cannot restrict traders to buy produce from farmers but it is strategising that Admarc and National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) buy maize from farmers soon after harvest.
“This is the reason we have included a budget line in the mid-year budget review for government to set aside money for Admarc and NFRA to purchase maize from farmers before vendors and other traders move into the market. This will enable the government to replenish the strategic grain reserves on time as well as control the prices on the market,” Mateyu said.
She added that the move will protect farmers from the exploitation they have suffered at the hands of venders who offer them prices below the set minimum prices.
Maize is Malawi’s staple food crop.