By Chimwemwe Mangazi:
Impact of the projected bumper yield this year is yet to be felt on the commodities as maize prices remain high in some parts of the country, The Daily Times has learnt.
A snap survey we conducted shows that, in some parts of the country, maize prices range between K150.00 and K200 per kilogramme (kg). A 50kg bag of maize is being sold between K7,500 to K10,000.
Rising maize prices pushed up the March 2019 inflation rate by 1.4 percentage points to 9.3 percent from 7.9 percent the previous month.
In Lilongwe, maize price was relatively higher, at K12,000 per 50kg bag.
Some maize traders we spoke to in the city yesterday said, with maize harvesting season at its peak, it was surprising that prices of the staple commodity remained elevated.
Estimates show that this year’s maize production will be at 3,387,587 metric tonnes, representing a 25.6 percent increase in production as compared to the 2017/18 final round estimate of 2,697,959 metric tonnes.
Lawrence Chunga, a maize trader at Nchesi Market in Lilongwe, said while crop estimates painted a rosy picture, the situation on the ground was the different.
“Most parts of the country received excess rains which affected the crop in the field; as a result, yield has gone down,” Chunga said.
Another vendor, Esmie Makwinja, plying her trade at Senti Market, feared that the price might not come down, but would continue rising.
“We are ordering the maize at a high price already. Therefore, to remain in business, we have to increase the price but there is no maize in villages,” Makwinja said.
Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation spokesperson, Agnes Chikoko, said the parastatal was also selling the commodity at K150 per kg.
“We don’t come up with prices, we get them from the government so we are indeed selling at K7,500 per 50kg bag,” Chikoko said.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development set minimum the maize price at K150 per kg from K170 per kg last marketing season.
Economics Association of Malawi President, Chikumbutso Kalilombe, said, if maize prices remain elevated going ahead, it would have a negative impact on the economy.
“If true, then, it could result in increased inflation figures, thus distorting assumptions and targets that we have. This could also force the Reserve Bank of Malawi to reverse current interest rate direction but, as it is, these remain speculations,” Kalilombe said.
Minister of Agriculture Irrigation and Water Development, Joseph Mwanamvekha, said farmers were reaping the most of their effort.
“Our assessment was for the whole country and there are places with excess yield and there other areas where the yield is low; so, the vendors could be buying from such areas but we expect the trend to be normal like in any other year with high production,” Mwanamveka said.
Maize, as part of the food component, impacts the country’s economy given that it constitutes 45.2 percent in the Consumer Price Index, which is an aggregate basket of goods and services for computing inflation.
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