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Lockdown decision angers farmers

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The country’s farmers, under the Farmers Union of Malawi (Fum), have expressed dismay with government’s decision to implement a wholesome and spontaneous country-wide lockdown in the wake of Covid-19.

The concern comes at a time government has challenged the injunction which was granted last Friday against the lockdown which was due to start at mid-night on Saturday.

Briefing reporters in Lilongwe on Wednesday, Fum President Frighton Njolomole, said while the implementation of lockdown measures has proved to be producing desirable results in other countries, his organisation believes that Malawi needs home grown solutions to Covid-19 pandemic that adapt to Malawi’s context.

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Njolomole said a wholesome and spontaneous lockdown measure without due consideration to agriculture markets will cause more harm than good especially to farmers in Malawi who are at a very critical period of harvesting and marketing of their produce.

Fum has since cal led on government to reverse its decision on the wholesome and spontaneous nation-wide lockdown.

“Imposing a lockdown at such a critical period is not only ill-timed but will negatively impact on farming businesses. A lockdown will result in panic selling among farmers and thereby reducing farmers bargaining power and income.

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“In addition to the forgone income, the lockdown and the accompanied ban of central and mobile markets will result in serious disruption in the movement of commodities along the marketing chain as these markets are interlinked. Some of the markets especially mobile and central markets largely act as wholesale outlets for farmers and traders which then feed into retail markets in locations in cities and towns. By implementing a ban on central and mobile markets, all other markets will be disrupted and the ultimate outcome will be as bad as banning all markets,” Njolomole said.

According to Fum, apart from causing serious distortions to the current marketing season, Fum also believe that the pending lockdown will affect agricultural production and productivity for the coming year.

“We find the government very lacking in walking its own talk on agriculture diversification and transformation agenda for the country. We have noted that despite the recent efforts and commitments by various stakeholders to diversify Malawi’s economy away from tobacco, the government has only prioritised tobacco in putting in place measures for its marketing and disregarding all other value chains including those highlighted in the National Export Strategy.

“We expect government policy response to Covid-19 in relation to agriculture, markets and trade to demonstrate inclusivity and fairness. We find government policy choice on this matter to be not only discriminatory, but also defeats the country’s resolve for agriculture diversification and transformation agenda,” Njolomole said.

The farmers have also proposed that the Special Cabinet Committee on coronavirus should be reconstituted to comprise representative from various stakeholders including; farmers, the private sector, clergy, civil society, opposition political parties, NGOs and the academia.

“This will result in inclusivity, legitimacy and will eliminate any suspected forms of conflict of interest,” Njolomole said.

Government Spokesperson, Mark Botomani, was not immediately available for comment.

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