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Committee to take pigeon peas issue to Parliament

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Audrey Kapalamula:

Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture has completed its enquiry on Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) controversial buying of pigeon peas.

The issue of pigeon peas market attracted attention when the government announced that the State-owned Admarc had started buying the grain at K230 per kilogramme (kg) when most farmers had sold their produce to middlemen for as little as K50 per kg.

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The committee’s chairperson, Joseph Chidanti- Malunga, Sunday said they are compiling a report which they would present to Parliament to determine the way forward.

“After meeting different ministries and stakeholders, we went out to the field and verified. We became interested in knowing who is going to be assisted by the directive and we visited Admarc markets. We went to a number of markets and we are writing a report so that we should present it to Parliament,” he said.

Chidanti-Malunga said they established that farmers are hardly selling their produce to Admarc.

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“We were meant to believe that there was much out there and that people are failing to find a market. We probably thought that we are going to find a queue, considering the price [K230]. [On the] contrary, we found that in some markets, there were no people at all,” he said.

Chidanti-Malunga said the committee would soon ask Admarc for a report on who is selling them the peas.

He said the committee embarked on the investigations after it received conflicting reports on the sources of funds as well as the reasons behind the directive.

Recently, Minister of Finance, Goodall Gondwe, clarified that the money for buying the crop is from the K4.8 billion which Admarc is using for buying maize from farmers.

Gondwe said the money was drawn from the 2017/18 budget under the Unforeseen Circumstances expenditure vote to buy 23,000 metric tonnes from local traders.

The findings of the committee differ from what The Daily Times established in Admarc depots in Thyolo where farmers complained that it was only trucks of politically-connected businesspersons who are accessing selling points.

Reacting to the challenges farmers are facing, Farmers Union of Malawi President, Alfred Kapichira-Banda, told The Daily Times that it was frustrating that farmers have been struggling to get better returns for their produce.

“We feel that the government deliberately buys farm produce when most peasant farmers have sold their crops to vendors. It is not surprising then to hear stories that politicians and other government officials are having a hand in the selling of pigeon peas. This issue must be addressed once and for all,” he was quoted as saying on Friday.

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