Hunger crisis looms


The Malawi Government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, has disclosed that the country needs about 1, 290, 000 metric tonnes of maize to avert the food crisis that has been projected to affect about 8.5 million Malawians.

This was made known during the ministerial statement for the budget session of Parliament by the Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, George Chaponda, Tuesday.

According to statistics in the statement, the country’s agriculture production has been projected to be the lowest for the past 5 years due to weather related factors.


“According to the Second Round Agricultural Production Estimates Survey (APES) released by my Ministry [of Agriculture] in March, the country’s main staple food, maize, has registered a reduction of 12.4 percent as compared to the 2014/15 final round estimate. Thus, maize production declined from 2,776,277 metric tonness in 2014/2015 to about 2,431,313 metric tonnes in 2015/16,” said Chaponda

In two years, the country has registered a cumulative 42 percent of maize production decline.

The assessment further shows that the affected population will require about


790,000metric tonnes of relief food for a period ranging from April 2016 to March, 2017.

As a way of responding to the pending hunger crisis, Chaponda said his government has set up some short-term, medium-term and long-term measures to ensure that the 8.5 Malawians do not languish

Among the short term measures, government has said it plans to import some 1 million metric tonnes of the staple grain through Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) and the National Food Reserve Agency. Government also plans to locally procure the grain.

There have been concerns that the government has delayed in purchasing maize on the local market when other players, like private traders are all over the market, buying the grain.

Chaponda said that government already gave an okay to Admarc to immediately start buying maize on the local market. He informed the August House that as of mid-May Admarc has procured over 10,000metric tonnes of maize on the local market.

The short term measures are immediate in nature, covering the 2015/16 fiscal year and part of the 2016/17 financial year; while the Medium term measures, on the other hand, cover the year 2016/17 through to about 2 to 3 fiscal years. The long term measures will be implemented in 5years and beyond.

The estimates have also registered decreases in rice (21.6 percent), cassava (0.1 percent), sorghum (27.1 percent) and millet (40.9 percent). However, production of sweet potatoes and potatoes has increased by 3.2 and 0.1 percent, respectively.

In terms of major cash crops, the Tobacco Control Commission estimates an increase in tobacco production from 192,967,541Kgs in the 2014/15 agricultural season to 199,899,000Kgs this season. Cotton production has declined significantly by 54.3 percent due to a combination of price disincentive, unfavourable weather and unavailability of seed.

On legumes, ground nuts have registered a production decrease of 8.2 per cent while other pulses have also gone down by 3.6 percent. However, production of soya beans has increased by 6.8 percent.

Reacting to the statement, opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) took to task the government on its apparent indecisiveness in averting the food crisis.

The MPs argued that while government has been saying it wants to purchase maize from farmers before vendors infiltrate the market, vendors are already buying the maize at prices which are even higher than those Admarc is offering.

MP for Mzimba South West Khumbo Kachali lamented that while other countries have measures of protecting maize from unscrupulous buyers, government is too relaxed.

“Maize is supposed to be a protected crop but why is it that we are not doing enough to make sure that its sale is protected? Elsewhere, maize is protected but here every Jim and Jack can buy and take it wherever they want,” said Kachali.

But in his response, Chaponda simply said his ministry continues counseling farmers not to sell their farm produce to vendors who he said are ripping the farmers off.

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