A snap survey by The Business Times has indicated that prices of maize have risen to about 90 percent in markets across the country since April.
For example, in Mzuzu, a bucket of maize is being sold at between K2,800 and K3,000, translating into K9,000 per 50 kilogramme (kg) bag. In Lilongwe, the commodity is being sold between K160 and K180 per kg.
In Mangochi, a 50 kg bag is at K8,500 while in Zomba, the same quantity is sold at K9, 500.
On average, the prices have risen by 90 percent when compared to the K5,000 a 50 kg bag was fetching in April.
However, the price trends tally with prices registered on the market during the same time last year, where a 50 kg bag was fetching K9,000.
Nevertheless, the development is posing serious threats to performance of the local economy, considering volatility of the Kwacha and rising inflation in recent months.
In an interview Tuesday, Economics Association of Malawi Executive Director Frank Chikuta said the trend was understandable as, currently, the country enters the lean period.
“We should also look at this from regional dynamics. The International Food Policy Research Institute’s August report shows that prices of maize in other countries were higher than in Malawi and we expect that the commodity would be moved into these countries for the agents to earn more, thereby, creating pressure on local commodities,” Chikuta said.
In a separate interview, Africa Institute for Corporate Citizenship Chief Executive Officer Driana Lwanda said the trend entails that there is a mismatch between purported huge investments in maize production and output estimates.
She said there was a need for proper computation of the diverse effects of disasters such as insects, floods and drought on maize.
“It is very clear that maize prices will still go up as most of the maize produced under irrigation is always sold as green maize. With an increase in post-harvest losses and inadequate quantities of alternative crops like cassava, rice and legumes, it means pressure on food will be rendered towards maize. This will lead to high market price as demand for it will increase,” Lwanda said.
But Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson Grecian Lungu disputed the findings, saying the its recent report shows that only few areas in the Southern Region is maize being sold at around K8,000 but, in other areas, the commodity is being sold at K7,500 or less.
“The variations in prices depend on forces of demand and supply, especially in towns, but not much in rural areas and, for your own information, in areas where demand is more than supply, Admarc is selling maize in these areas at K160 per kg translating to K8, 000 per 50kg bag,” Lungu said.
Lungu added that, in June, the Food Balance Sheet indicated that Malawi has 1,348,259 MTs of Maize.
Maize is Malawi’s staple crop and accounts for 42.5 percent in the basic needs basket.