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‘Malawi government has 50,000 tonnes of maize’

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Malawi government has procured over 41,000 metric tonnes of maize on top of the 9,221 tonnes that the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) had in its system, Minister of Agriculture Allan Chiyembekeza announced Monday.

This comes amid concerns from different stakeholders that government is failing to properly manage the current hunger situation which has left over two million Malawians in dire straits.

Addressing the press in Lilongwe, Chiyembekeza, who was flanked by government spokesperson Jappie Mhango, admitted that there have been problems with how the initial bulk of maize has been handled.

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In the 2015/16 national budget, Admarc was allocated K4 billion for the purchase of maize while the Strategic Grain Reserves (SGR) was allocated K8 billion and government once said the grain that had been procured was enough to feed hungry Malawians during the current lean period.

But with the lean period still having more than two months to end, only about 9,000 metric tonnes of maize were reportedly remaining in Admarc depots as of last week.

Malawi needs over four million metric tonnes to feed itself optimally and the 30 percent drop in maize harvest from 3.9 to 2.8 metric tonnes meant a shortfall of about one million tonnes. Chiyembekeza said of the 50,500 tonnes, 25,250 tonnes are for the Southern Region while 16,833 are for the Central Region. The Northern Region gets a share of 8,417 tonnes.

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He said part of the maize was bought from within the country while the rest was imported from Zambia.

“We expect that the maize that is available now will take us through to the end of the lean period in April after which people will have harvested. We will make sure it reaches every selling point so that Malawians, especially those in remote areas, purchase the maize,” said Chiyembekeza.

He added that transporting the maize will be easier this time because logistics for the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) are nearing the end such that trucks will be more available.

“The problem was that even when Admarc depots had the maize, it was not easy to reach the remote areas. Some transporters could not allow their trucks to go to the rural areas. That has been a challenge,” said Chiyembekeza.

When asked how government intends to regulate the selling of this latest procurement so that vendors do not infiltrate the selling depots like they have been doing, Chiyembekeza said Malawians must take a leading role in reporting the vendors to authorities.

“Dealing with vendors is not easy, but we will make sure no one suffers. The selling points will be flooded with the maize so that the vendors will not even benefit anything,” said Chiyembekeza.

He added that even though more maize will be available in Admarc selling points, the 20 kilogrammes ration still remains “so that no one takes advantage of the availability to buy and hoard the maize.”

For the past month, hungry Malawians have been queuing in Admarc selling points with some of them spending nights there without purchasing the staple grain at the end.

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