The Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) is calling on government to reverse its decision sealing maize prices and to lift a ban imposed on maize exports.
The Chamber is arguing that failure to implement this may cause smallholder farmers to lose out as they will not be able to sale the commodity at a profit.
This comes a few days after government published a list of minimum prices for agriculture produce.
The minimum price for maize has been set at K170 per kilogramme. Prices of maize have gone as low as K50 a kilogramme in some districts in the country.
In an interview with The Daily Times, MCCCI Chief Executive Officer Chancellor Kaferapanjira stressed that the trend defeats the purpose of regional instruments such as the Regional Agriculture Policy established to cement economic regional integration.
“The government has the tendency of fixing prices for agriculture commodities, they are calling them minimum prices but the danger is that they are telling everybody to buy at this price.
“Maize for example, was set at K170 a kilogramme and yet the same government last year set the price at K250 a kilogramme, ” Kaferapanjira said.
He said that government must consult when coming up with such decisions highlighting that such a move is killing the private sector.
“You know the same government does not set prices for inputs, for you to grow any agriculture commodity in the country, you have to rent or buy land, so there is the cost of land, the cost of labor, the cost of fertilizer, the cost of chemicals, all that is determined by the market. In other words, the government does not help a producer or a farmer in setting those prices but they are very quick when it comes to outputs obviously to gain political millage,” Kaferapanjira said.
He further urged the government to lift the ban on exportation of maize saying that people are looking for better markets to earn enough from their labour.
Kaferapanjira said this when he delivered a keynote address during a National Awareness and Dialogue on Southern African Development Community Regional Agricultural Policy and the National Agriculture Policy organised by Nasfam in Lilongwe on Wednesday.
In a separate interview, NasfamChief Executive Officer DybornChibonga said government should not only focus on financing the Farm Input Subsidy Programmeif it wants to transform the economy through agriculture.
“we are suggesting that they should not look at just one programme to develop agriculture in the country, they should also look at investing in other areas such as research and development, extensions, advisory services, rural infrastructure and many more so you find that access to markets is a challenge,” Chibonga said.
Her mes Mauwa, Deputy Director of Planning responsible for policy in the Ministry of Agriculture declined to give a direct response to the sentiments stressing that he was not better placed to comment.