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Maize production not profitable—study

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By Taonga Sabola:

MALAWI’S STAPLE FOOD—Maize

A study by welfare monitoring body, the Centre for Social Concern (CfSC), has shown that maize producers are getting negative returns from the crop.

The study, whose results were released on Tuesday, shows that maize producers are spending more money on production of the grain but earning less.

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Presenting results of the survey, CfSC Economic Governance Programme Officer, Lucky Mfungwe, said lack of enforcement of farm gate prices after harvest coupled with delays by (Admarc) to start buying maize left growers in an awkward situation.

This, according to Mfungwe, resulted in unscrupulous vendors taking advantage of the situation by offering growers poor prices.

“This saw vendors buying the maize at prices as low as K60 per kilogramme during and immediately after harvest which is far below the cost of production.

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“By the time Admarc comes onto the market, most of the farmers have already sold their maize at a very cheap price,” Mfungwe said.

The study has recommended that proper legal framework be put in place to enforce the set minimum prices.

It further says the government should invest in setting up structured markets and set price supporting mechanisms.

“Authorities should strengthen the campaign to sensitise farmers to aggregate their produce and sell to organised markets like Agriculture Commodities Exchange and AHL Commodities Exchange.

“Access to farmers should be enriched with the right information at the right time for decision-making. The market information centres championed by economic planning within the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning remain a mystery,” CfSC says.

It adds that government should empower the campaign of farmer-based organisations (cooperatives), adding that, like other developed countries such as India, the government should invest in the farmer-based organisations to ensure quality and sustainability.

One of the farmers in Lilongwe, Hastings Macnorris Njazi, concurred with the findings of the survey that maize production was no longer a profitable undertaking.

Minister of Agriculture, Kondwani Nankhumwa, was not available to comment on the findings of the survey.

Maize, which is grown in almost all the 28 districts of Malawi, is the country’s staple food.

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