The Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) has stopped buying maize from local farmers in some parts of the country, raising speculation that the grain marketer has exhausted the K5 billion allocation from the government.
Some Admarc depots in rural areas of Chitipa, Karonga, Mzimba and Rumphi districts have not transacted for about a month, Malawi News can reveal, with officials telling farmers that there is no money.
The development has reignited calls for the government to lift the export ban it placed on the staple grain two years ago following persistent occurrences of El-Nino, drought and floods which left over six million Malawians dependent on food aid.
Farmers from Kameme and Kapenda in Chitipa have slammed government for maintaining the ban when it is failing to buy all the maize from farmers who are trying to make ends meet from the sales.
“The Admarc satellite market opened just for a day since it was announced that the corporation had started purchasing maize from farmers. We were told, a day later, that the money had been exhausted. Since then, there has been no business.
“Now they are sending Malawi Defence Force soldiers to stop us from selling our own maize to neighbouring countries and, yet, they cannot provide a profitable market for our yields,” said Andrew Mtambo from Kapenda.
Latest crop production estimates by the Ministry of Agriculture show that maize production has risen to 3.2 million tonnes, up from last year’s 2.3 million tonnes.
On his part, Rodgers Mwambene of Karonga called on the government to consider lifting the maize export ban to enable farmers sell the grain across the borders where, he said, it is fetching better prices than in Malawi.
“In fact, sticking with Admarc is a mere case of patriotism; otherwise, the price offered is not commensurate with the costs incurred in buying inputs,” Mwambene said.
In a statement released last month, Admarc said it would be buying maize at K170 per kilogramme while vendors in Tanzania and Kenya are reported to be buying the grain at an average price of K400 for the same quantity.
When called for comment, Admarc spokesperson Agness Ndovie insisted that they are still buying maize “at times, though we do close our depots for stock taking”.
She, however, asked for a questionnaire which she is yet to respond to.
But Farmers Union of Malawi President, Alfred Kapichila Banda, accused the government of spearheading exploitation of farmers in a telephone interview yesterday.
“We have had meetings with the ministries of Agriculture and Trade and it came out clearly to us that they do not have the interest of local farmers at heart and yet, within their systems, there are business tycoons who are selling maize abroad at better prices than those offered to farmers,” Banda said.
Ministry of Agriculture, spokesperson Osborne Tsoka, was yet to give us responses on the matter as we went to bed, having earlier committed to doing so.
The sheet further accuses Tayub of influencing a public officer to misuse his public office, Contrary to Section 25B (2) of the Corrupt Practices Act.
“Rashid Tayub, one of the directors of Transglobe Exports Produce Limited, in or around November 2016, in the City of Blantyre, influenced Foster
Mlumbe, the former Chief Executive Officer of Admarc, to offer a contract to Transglobe Exports Produce Limited to export from Zambia 50,000 metric tonnes of maize out of the 100,000 metric tonnes of maize that Zambia Cooperative Federation was contracted to supply to Admarc, without following laid down procurement procedures,” it reads.
However, ACB Deputy Director, Reyneck Matemba, said for legal reasons he would not be able to give more details on the bureau’s stand as regards Mlumbe’s involvement in the case filed against Chaponda and Tayub.
“We know suspended Admarc CEO Foster Mlumbe was mentioned in the maizegate issue but, as it is, let me not say much about him. As it is, the people we have arrested are the ones who will be prosecuted. The nation will be informed on the way forward with respect to Mlumbe [but, as of] the case that we will commence on August 9, he is not one of the accused persons,” Matemba said.
Commenting on the failed attempt by defence lawyers to invalidate warrants of arrest obtained against Chaponda and Tayub, Matemba disclosed that there have been several attempts to derail investigations as well as the prosecutions.
“About a month ago, lawyers for the Tayubs (Salim Tayub, Hamza Tayub, Rashid Tayub and Transglobe) went to court to seek a judicial review; this case did not involve Chaponda. They made an application for leave to commence judicial review proceedings against our decision to investigate and prosecute them.
“They argued we acted unreasonably by instituting an investigation against them; according to them, there was no contract between Admarc and them. The bureau argued that the fact that they concede [that] they were involved in the purchase of maize from Zambia that raised reasonable suspicion and it justified our investigations and the court agreed with our argument and refused their application,” Matemba said.
Matemba further said ACB will start parading its witnesses from August 9 to 11 and August 14, after the two pleaded not guilty on Thursday during their bail application at Blantyre Magistrate’s Court.
“On Thursday, when we (ACB) appeared before the courts- that is, both in Lilongwe for Mhango, Tayub, and Chaponda in Blantyre- I told both courts that the case involves three people. I did this just to be on record because, sometime next week, we want to apply and ask the courts to combine the case so that they appear before the court at once. So the court will decide where the case will be held [between] either Lilongwe or Blantyre,” he said.
Matemba could not come out clear on whether the bureau will make more arrests in relation to the purchase of maize from Zambia.
“For the time being, we will take the case that we have to court the way it is; it will be premature for me at this point in time to say whether we will
make more arrests or not. Because, in most cases, when you interview suspects and they remain silent and when you take them to court and they are found with a case to answer, they are compelled to speak out. So it will be too early for us to say we have made all possible arrests but, for the time being, the people that we have now are the ones that we are going to prosecute in relation to the maize issue,” Matemba said.
Chaponda, Tayub and Mhango were arrested on Wednesday after appearing before ACB officials in Blantyre and Lilongwe, respectively.
Chaponda and Tayub, who pleaded not guilty to all charges, were released on bail. The conditions include K200,000 cash, K2 million surety non-cash. They will also appear at ACB offices every fortnight and surrender all travel documents to ACB.
Mhango, who also pleaded not guilty and is accused of forgery in the procurement of maize from Zambia, was also released on bail on condition of K100,000 cash, K2 million surety non-cash. She was also ordered to surrender all travel documents and appear before ACB twice a month.
According to a statement that was issued by ACB on Wednesday, Chaponda will answer a charge with corruptly performing public functions, misuse of public office and possession of foreign currency, contrary to section 25A (1), 25B (1) of the Corrupt Practices Act and Regulation 25A (1) of the Exchange Control Regulations as read with Section 3 of the Exchange Control Act, respectively.
Tayub will answer a charge of influencing a public officer to misuse his public office contrary to Section 25B (2) of the Corrupt Practices Act.
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