Government bans maize export
The government has said funds amounting to K88.4 billion are needed for the implementation of short, medium and long-term measures of dealing with fall armyworm attacks and dry spells which have negatively affected most crops, especially maize in many districts.
In a ministerial statement presented in Parliament Monday, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Joseph Mwanamvekha, said K31 billion is needed for immediate and short-term measures, K21.9 billion for medium-term intervention and K35.5 million will be required for long-term strategies.
Some of the immediate and short-term measures that Mwanamvekha outlined are the implementation of the maize export ban, buying more maize for the strategic grain reserves, investing in winter cropping, food relief, enhancing irrigation and intensifying armyworm control measures.
“I have been assured by the Minister of Finance that resources are available and I would like to urge all stakeholders to support the initiatives,” Mwanamvekha said.
So far, the dry spell and fall armyworm attacks have left 707, 389 farming families vulnerable to food insecurity while fall armyworm attacks have left over one million farming households food insecure.
Mwanamvekha said the rapid assessment that the ministry conducted with Food and Agriculture Organisation indicates that about 40 percent of the maize produced in districts affected by dry spell will be lost.
He said the areas that have experienced fall armyworm attacks will lose 10 percent of the projected maize production.
Based on the findings, about 210,740 metric tonnes of the country’s projected maize production will be lost to the dry spell and about 73,201 metric tonnes will be lost to fall armyworm.
“In total, therefore, the country’s maize production will be reduced by about 283,941 metric tonnes due to the two factors,” Mwanamvekha said.
Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, Goodall Gondwe, said an amount of money has been allocated in the yet-to-be-presented mid-year budget to deal with the twin challenges.
He also said the government will have a floating account, in case the situation gets worse than it is currently.
But Chairperson of the Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Committee of Parliament, Joseph Chidanti Malunga, has cautioned the government to tread carefully on the projected numbers of people affected by the disaster.
Malunga said it is important for the government to avoid the 2016 scenario in which the interventions ended up in controversial circumstances.
“Let us get the numbers correct on the people affected. We need to know which affected people are these and where are they? Otherwise, we do not want to be in a situation of two years ago where the house was burning and there was a child in that house,” Malunga said.
Both Mwanamvekha and Gondwe emphasised that the country is just experiencing fears of hunger not the real hunger crisis and—with about 280,000 metric tonnes at Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation and National Food Reserve Agency plus 68,000 metric tonnes outside these institutions—the country is safe.
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