A snap survey by The Business Times has revealed that maize prices remain elevated at an average K23,541 per 50 kilogramme (kg) bag in the country’s major cities and some districts.
Maize prices are seen to be highest in Blantyre at K26,000 per 50kg bag and slightly lower at K25,000 for the same quantity in Nsanje, Zomba and Lilongwe. In Luchenza, a bag of maize is selling at K24,000.
In Mzuzu a 50kg bag of maize is being sold at K22,250 while the lowest price for the commodity was recorded in Mangochi at K18,000 per 50kg bag.
The prices were lower in areas where Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) depots were stocked and selling the commodity at the government set price of K15,000 per 50kg bag.
For example, Makanjira and Ekwendeni depots in Mangochi and Mzimba districts, respectively, were found selling the commodity while Nyamithuthu, Bangula and Tengani depots in Nsanje ran out of stock after 368 bags were bought.
Zomba City Mayor Davie Maunde indicated that one Admarc depot that was stocked with the commodity has also not been restocked after the maize was depleted.
In an interview, National Programme Coordinator for Transforming Agriculture through Diversification and Entrepreneurship Project Felix Lombe said the price trends could be triggered by speculation and anticipation of scarcity of the commodity in coming months.
“The simplest mechanism of determining price is the interplay of demand and supply. Secondly, you may have demand and supply at equilibrium but people are speculating that there will perhaps be scarcity at a point or there will be increased demand at a certain point,” Lombe said.
Agriculture expert Leonard Chmwaza said the trend confirms assertions that the government does not have enough maize stocks to supply to the country.
“The price trends are also a reflection of how the nation has failed to promote substitute crops for maize because if we had intensified, for example, rice production, which can easily substitute maize, and made it available, people could buy the rice and it could ease pressure on the prices of maize,” Chimwaza said.
NFRA Chief Executive Officer Brenda Kayongo was yet to respond to our questionnaire as we went to press.