Farmers Union of Malawi (Fum) has spoken strongly against delays by the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) to start purchasing maize from farmers across the country.
This is coming at a time the corporation announced the opening of its markets for maize purchases in the southern region three weeks ago.
Fum President Fryton Njolomole said the delay by Admarc is giving vendors a chance to penetrate communities and dupe farmers.
He added that, by now, farmers need to start preparing for the next farming season; therefore, further delays in opening markets will affect their preparations.
“This is July and people have started preparing for next season but for that to happen people need money which should come from their farm produce. Admarc should start buying as soon as possible,” Njolomole said.
During Sunday Times Talk on Times Radio, a Mr Manda from Kasiya in Lilongwe said vendors are procuring maize from farmers at K70 per kilogramme because they do not have any alternative market for their crop.
Admarc spokesperson Agnes Chikoko Ndovi said the moisture is still above the recommended percentage in the central and northern regions.
“There is a team that is on the ground with moisture meters and, as of last week, it was around 17 percent; so, we know that in the next two weeks, we should have a positive report,” she said.
Spokesperson in the Ministry of Agriculture Gracian Lungu concurred with Ndovi, saying the exercise is expected to start soon in the two regions as recent reports indicate that the moisture content has improved.
He added that the parastatal started the exercise with K7 billion it had in its accounts and will receive another chunk from Treasury to reach K12 billion as indicated in the 2021/22 national budget.
Admarc is targeting to buy 300, 000 metric tonnes of the commodity.
In a separate interview, agriculture expert Tamani Nkhono Mvula said both parties are raising genuine concerns.
He said maize that is high in moisture content usually gets discolored and results in increasing levels of aflatoxins.
“With a minimum price being set by government, it will only be fair to consider the fact that much of the weight in the maize in the aftermath of the harvest is just water. At the same time, farmers have immediate needs that need to be sorted out and needs a buyer immediately after harvest of which the vendors are readily available.
“What needs to happen is that Admarc should find a way of drying this maize after being bought, probably using mechanical drying. However, this will also need a reconsideration of the minimum price for fairness,” Mvula said.
He added that Admarc may also need to go into contract marketing with farmers’ associations or cooperatives where advance part payment could be made to the farmers as they are drying their produce.
Justin Mkweu is a fast growing reporter who currently works with Times Group on the business desk.
He is however flexible as he also writes about current affairs and national issues.