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Government adopts measures to avert maize crisis

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Government has announced that it has initiated short, medium and long term measures to reverse the loaming food crisis in the country.

This was disclosed by Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Dr. George Chaponda, on Friday when he briefed journalists in Lilongwe on the general food situation in the country and measures being taken to offset the current food gap and to avoid the recurrence of similar crises in the future.

Production of maize, the country’s staple food, has registered a decline from 2, 776, 277 metric tonnes in 2014/2015 to about 2, 431, 313 metric tonnes in 2015/2016 growing season representing a 12.4 percent decline.

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As short-term measures, government intends to make sure that over extra 1.65 million metric tonnes of white maize is made available in the country.

“The short term measures are immediate in nature that will commence in the 2015/2016 fiscal year through to 2016/2017 financial year. They mostly focus on irrigation to utilise both existing and new irrigation schemes under the management of both smallholder and commercial farmers for maize production,” Chaponda said.

He said that this will be achieved by engaging commercial and other emerging farmers to utilise their irrigation facilities or use the ones belonging to smallholder farmers that could result in the realisation of about 25,000 metric tonnes of maize on 4,500 hectares of land to approximately cost K6.8 billion.

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Also, by initiating campaigns for smallholder farmers to seriously engage in conventional irrigation farming on an area of about 35, 000 hectares to supplement the current rain-fed crop which could result in the production of around 140, 000 metric tonnes which is meant to be for smallholder farmers own consumption.

He added that government also intends to distribute and install motorised pumps to increase the area under irrigation by 210 hectares to produce around 840 metric tonnes at an expected cost of K700 million.

According to the minister, plans are in play to import about 1 million metric tonnes of white maize from African regions and overseas of which part of it will be used for humanitarian relief purposes.

He said government will procure maize through the Agricultural Development Marketing Corporation (Admarc) and the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) both locally and to as far as Mexico and Ukraine.

“On this measure, the ministry has recommended to government to provide adequate financial resources to enable Admarc and NFRA commence maize purchases earlier than they normally do.

“In fact, Admarc has already started buying the grain from our smallholder farmer. The plan is to stock Admarc and NFRA with about 250, 000 metric tonnes each,” Chaponda said.

In its medium term plans (2016 to 2020), the government intends to procure, distribute and install 27 solar pumps across the country at a cost of K11.4 billion.

According to Chaponda, Malawi only irrigates a quarter of potential irrigable land of 408, 000 hectares due to factors related to capital cost investment. Out of this background, he said his ministry is engaging relevant departments such as the Treasury to come up with an innovative financing mechanism to support irrigation investment in the country.

“It is my conviction that if we developed 75 percent of this irrigable land and deployed it to food production, growing twice a year, we should be able to reverse the situation and come back to our self-food sufficiency status,” he said.

As a long term plan, the ministry will be guided by the National Agricultural Policy (Nap) whose main focus is to sustainably transform the sector with a view to attain significant growth and expand incomes of the farming communities and at the same time improve food and nutrition security for our communities

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