Farm gate price politics


As has become customary, the government has come up with farm gate prices for the 2023 season.

Following the development, the minimum price for Malawi’s staple commodity, maize, has been set at K500 per kilogramme (kg), K220 up from the price set in 2022.

Soya is now selling at K800 per kg from K480 per kg in 2022.


Minimum prices for other crops have been set, too. For instance, the minimum price for polished rice is K1,000 per kg while unpolished rice is fetching a minimum price of K500 per kg. Sorghum’s minimum price has been set at K400 per kg while finger millet is now fetching K550 per kg, with pure beans selling at K700 per kg, mixed beans at K600 per kg and white beans attracting a minimum price of K650.

Shelled groundnuts, on the other hand, are fetching K950 per kg and unshelled groundnuts, on the other hand, are fetching the minimum price of K800 per kg.

Agriculture Minister Sam Kawale indicated, after the minimum prices were set, that the government felt compelled to act after getting reports— maybe through the National Intelligence Bureau— that some unscrupulous people were buying crops from resource-poor farmers at pitiable prices. He actually branded those buying farm produce for a pittance as “inhumane”. Fine and well.


Every one of us wants to appear responsive to people’s needs, especially the needs of vulnerable people.

Surprisingly, Agriculture Committee of Parliament Chairperson Sameer Suleman described the minimum prices as low.

I was not surprised, though, as Suleman had to appear considerate to his constituents, too.

He is quoted as saying: “I don’t know what criteria they use but it is not making business and economic sense. We are currently paying over K1,100 per kilogramme to buy maize flour and we expect the price to rise due to the scarcity of maize on the ground. Why should we pay farmers less and, yet, the cost of producing that one kilogramme is more than what is being offered?

“With rising prices of fertiliser, definitely production costs are higher than selling prices, considering the depreciation of the Kwacha. The government should reconsider its decision on maize price for farmers not to be exploited again,” he said.

One would have thought we were done with the drama of setting minimum prices for crop produce. Those who thought so have been proven wrong.

This is because Chairperson for the Grain Traders Association Grace Mijiga Mhango has said international buyers risk shunning, for instance, soya from Malawi. Why? The farm gate price set by the Ministry of Agriculture is “high”.

Dear Pain, this beats the imagination.

One day, the chairperson of a parliamentary committee describes minimum prices for crops as low and, just in the nick of time, someone else describes the price of one of the commodities as “high”.

For your information, the Ministry of Agriculture set K800 per kg as the minimum price for buying soya this year.

However, Mijiga Mhango feels that the price is higher than the price being demanded by international buyers. “If you look at soya; it is one of the products we are using as a foreign exchange earner. But if you look at the price that the Ministry of Agriculture has released, which is K800 per kg, and compare it with international soya prices at markets we are targeting, our price is way too high.

“For now I can conformably say there is no market that can take that product and then, looking at the volumes that Malawi has, Malawi cannot absorb all that soya. So, it is a concern,” Mijiga Mhango said.

She added that the Grain Traders Association proposed a minimum price of K650 for soya.

“The implication is that we are likely to scare buyers and when they get scared, they go elsewhere. Mind you, we don’t have an established market for this crop. We just benefit from deficits in the region. As long as the pricing remains that high, we are likely to face challenges with our soya this year,” Mijiga Mhango said.

Here we go, again.

One may be compelled to side with one party [the government, parliamentary committee or grain traders] but the truth is that no one, among the three, really has the interests of farmers at heart.

They are all playing farm gate price politics with the aim of either hoodwinking Malawians into thinking that they really care for farmers when, in fact, they are simply sending messages to their constituents— with the farmer who toils in the sun not really in their mind.

In this life, and this is the pain of living, it is everyone by him or herself.

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