Grain reserves stock down
60,000 metric tonnes available
By Cathy Maulidi:
The National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) has a maize stock of 60,000 metric tonnes (mt) against the required strategic grain reserve stock of 217,000mt, The Daily Times has learned.
But, despite that the country’s grain silos are low on stock, both State grain trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) and NFRA have not yet moved to start buying grain for the country’s reserves from farmers, who are harvesting.
According to information we have gathered, the government is yet to communicate on which institution has been chosen to buy maize from farmers.
NFRA acting Chief Executive Officer David Loga told The Daily Times that NFRA has not yet been given the mandate to buy maize.
He said, as such, they have not started buying the grain.
“Parliament approved K12 billion for maize purchase but, in terms of who should buy the maize, the decision lies in government’s hands.
“If we are given the mandate, we will definitely buy. If it is given to Admarc, Admarc will also buy and hand it over to us to keep,” Loga said.
Spot checks in Admarc depots in Blantyre, Zomba, Mzuzu and Lilongwe cities have revealed that while Admarc markets are open, they have not started buying maize as officials wait for a signal from the government.
This, according to Zomba-based farmer Emmanuel Kapwepwe Mtambalika, is raising fears that vendors may buy the grain at lower prices before Admarc, thereby affecting farmers’ take-home package and the country’s grain stocks.
Meanwhile, Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture Chairperson Sameer Suleman has described the development as “worrisome” and called on the government to act with speed on the issue.
“The government is not buying maize. Who is going to keep maize for Malawians in preparation for the looming hunger? We are playing with fire.
“The government needs to act on this now. We expect Admarc to start buying maize immediately. Food is a right to Malawians and government needs to show seriousness on this,” Suleman said.
Suleman feared that vendors may finish off maize from farmers, sell IT to international markets, leaving Admarc with nothing to buy when it penetrates the market.
“Because government is failing to do the needful, I am appealing to all Malawians, especially our smallholder farmers, to take very good care of whatever little maize they have managed to harvest. Please do not sell everything. Keep the maize,” Suleman said.
In the 2023-24 national budget, the government allocated K12 billion for maize purchase.
However, the government is yet to release the funds and decide on who, between NFRA and Admarc, should buy it.