Maize stock raises alarm
Maize stock at the country’s strategic grain reserves has been depleted to just about 70,000 metric tonnes, figures provided by State-owned National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) show.
The reserves are not enough to take the country to the next harvesting season, and commentators have since recommended a quick refill.
In an interview on Monday, NFRA acting Chief Executive Officer David Kaputa Loga said, already, some of the quantity is being pushed into the market.
“We could be saying we have about 70,000mt of maize; of course, some of it is already being drawn to be used for relief and price stabilisation. But we do have stock in the reserves,” Loga said.
Loga said plans are underway to replenish the reserves.
According to the World Bank, Malawi’s annual maize requirement is at 3.1 million tonnes, translating to a monthly requirement of 258.3 tonnes.
This means the amount of maize in the SGR is enough to feed the whole country for only eight days.
This is coming from a country where the government announced that K12 billion has been allocated for maize purchases in the 2023-24 national budget.
The amount can buy 480mt of maize at the government set minimum price of K500 per kilogramme (kg).
In a separate interview, agriculture policy expert Leonard Chimwaza said the amount is not enough to contain existing pressure.
“The government must expedite the process of replenishing the grain reserves. Above all, we need to put in place short-term measures that will help the country be food secure,” Chimwaza said.
Minister of Agriculture Sam Kawale told Parliament on Tuesday that, in the aftermath of Cyclone Freddy, demand for maize has gone up; piling pressure on prices as farmers are yet to start harvesting it in most parts of the country.
Meanwhile, NFRA has since said the value for missing maize, purportedly smuggled into Tanzania last year, is K29 million not the initially reported K120 million.
In October last year, a court in Lilongwe heard that some14 trucks ferrying K120 million worth of maize for the NFRA were sold in Tanzania.