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Maize prices up 20 percent

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By Taonga Sabola:

Prices for the country’s staple food, maize, have risen by 20 percent since January from an average of around K10,000 per 50 kilogrammes (kg) bag to K12,000 per bag, Times Business has established.

A visit to selected townships in Blantyre on Monday revealed that many households were struggling to buy the commodity with many opting to buy small portions just to keep them for a day or two.

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The visit also revealed long queues at Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) depots where the commodity is trading at K7,500 per 50kg bag.

Elliot Chepa, a vendor at Zingwangwa Market, attributed the significant rise in the price of maize to shortage of the commodity on market.

He said he sourced the current stock of maize from Chipata in Zambia.

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“Shortage of the maize in many markets within the country is forcing us to go across the border to Zambia. When we factor in transport costs, the commodity lands in Blantyre at higher prices,” Chepa said.

Chilungamo Chimtengo, a maize vendor in Ndirande, said the surge in maize price was a result of heavy rains in the Southern and Central regions which have left many earth roads impassable.

Chimtengo said this has resulted in increased transport costs for the commodity.

One of the consumers, Linda Macheso, of Manase Township in the commercial capital, said they still opt for vendors because of the long distance to Admarc markets coupled with the enormous time spent to make a purchase.

“When we go to Admarc markets, we find very long queues. Oftentimes, the commodity runs out while you are on the queue,” Macheso said.

Unconfirmed reports indicate that some vendors are also sourcing the commodity from Admarc to resell at a premium.

Admarc Public Relations Officer, Agnes Ndovi, was not immediately available for comment Monday.

Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe told Parliament on Friday that the government has enough maize stocks in its reserves.

He said expenditure for maize purchases in the first half of the financial year amounted to K7.4 billion, against a mid-year target of K20 billion, representing an under-expenditure of K12.6 billion.

“This under-expenditure was because government has enough maize stock in its reserves and therefore did not require to procure the planned quantity. The abundance of maize on the market necessitated a subdued recourse to government resources for relief maize operations,” Gondwe said.

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