Private traders in some parts of the country are buying maize from farmers at way below the government-set minimum price of K150 per kilogramme.
Malawi News snap check in parts of Lilongwe and Kasungu shows that farmers are selling the grain at between K4,000 and K5,000 instead of the minimum K7,500 per 50 kg bag.
Apart from private traders, state-owned Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) should have offered an alternative market. However, Admarc has not yet started buying maize in most parts of the country because it does not have money.
That said, the cash-strapped Admarc recently asked government to reduce the K150 maize farm gate price per kg in order to export its surplus maize.
These developments have left the poor farmers with no option but to sell their maize produce at a lower price to private traders.
The development, experts says, means that government itself is not reaping the fruits of its investment in the Agriculture Input Programme as the billions invested do not match the returns realised from the flagship programme.
In the 2020/21 fiscal year, government allocated K140 billion to the programme benefiting 3.2 million households.
Ministry of Agriculture has projected national maize harvest of 4.4 million metric tonnes as compared to 3.7 million metric tonnes of the last farming season.
Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson, Gracian Lungu, said it is really true that in some areas, some vendors are buying maize at a lower price below the Government set minimum farm gate price.
“As a Ministry, together with other ministries like Homeland Securities, we have been going in different areas across the country enforcing these farm-gate prices and our efforts have seen many vendors arrested. The enforcement has indeed been low in some areas but we have been pleading with the Police to continue doing the good job it has been doing all along.
We understand that the malpractice is rampant mostly in Central and Northern Region where Admarc is yet to start buying the commodity as it has been monitoring the optimum moisture content but I must assure the general public that the situation will improve soon as Admarc will is scheduled to start buying maize in all regions in few days coming,” he said.
A report by the International Food Policy Research Institute for Malawi released in April this year showed that maize prices remain lower in Malawi than in selected markets in the eastern Africa.
“Retail maize prices for old maize harvested in the 2019/20 season decreased by 4.7 percent during the month of April. New maize that has recently been harvested continues to be sold at a discount to old maize,” reads the report.
Organisations such as Oxfam Malawi, Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) and Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency (Csat) have also expressed reservations with the AIP.
Minister of Finance Felix Mlusu is also on record to have publicly admitted that the AIP is not sustainable in the long term.
Mlusu has allocated 49.9 percent of the budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Agriculture in the 2021/22 national budget towards implementation of the AIP.
Malawi News findings show that cross-border traders are offering farmers better maize prices than those offered by local private traders.
Csat Executive Director Willy Kambwandira said in an interview that he suspected that some decision makers could be engineering the mess.
“This hypocrisy is regrettable. Unfortunately, this has been the trend for years. Admarc too has not lived to the expectations of a common Malawian. We can only speculate this mess is propagated by some decision makers around there who are benefiting from the chaos” he said.
Speaking at Parliament when appearing before the joint budget cluster committees of Agriculture and Food Security, Natural Resources and Climate Change, Admarc acting Chief Executive Officer Dhlelisile Phiri said K150 per kg was on the higher side compared to other countries.