By Chimwemwe Mangazi:
Some maize farmers are lamenting dwindling prices of the staple grain, saying they are unlikely to reap the fruits of their efforts this season.
A recent study by the Africa Institute for Corporate Citizenship (AICC) has revealed that, in some districts of the country, vendors are buying the grain at prices lower than farm gate prices set by the Government.
The study shows that, in some parts, vendors are buying the maize at a price range of K100 and K110 per kilogramme (kg).
The government set K150 per kg as a minimum buying price for maize.
Groundnuts are being bought at K310 per kg in some parts of the country, instead of K450 set minimum price.
Prices for soya are at K230 per kg, instead of a K280 per kg minimum price while rice (not milled) is sold at K200 per kg instead of K250 per kg.
AICC Project Manager for Market Access, Leonard Chimwaza, attributed the situation to lack of proper enforcement measures by the government to ensure that traders adhere to set minimum prices.
“The Ministry of Agriculture should not just dictate the prices. We should have local government authorities intervening in such matters because they are already in the villages to make sure that buyers adhere to the set minimum prices, thereby protecting the farmers,” Chimwaza said.
Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Gray Nyandule Phiri, said enforcement operations were affected by the recent elections.
“We will pounce on them [the vendors] because all the buyers were given licenses and if we find anyone buying below the set minimum prices we will revoke the license and they will have a case to answer,” Phiri said.
Economic commentator, who is also Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) Economic Governance Programmes Officer, Lucky Mfungwe, said the situation was influenced by market forces.
He, however, said there was need to protect sensitive crops like maize, considering that agriculture remains the mainstay of the Malawi economy.
“Let Admarc [Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation] be activated to play its regulatory role by offering the stipulated minimum prices; otherwise, at the moment, minimum prices set will forever remain a rubber stump,” Mfungwe said.