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Nandolo farmers cry foul

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By Taonga Sabola:

The country’s pigeon pea growers have expressed anger and outrage over the failure by farmers to benefit from the K4.8 billion allocation for nandolo purchase.

Nandolo Association of Malawi President, Susan Chimbayo, said the farmers feel cheated by the system despite being the ones who pushed for the government’s intervention following the collapse of the local nandolo market in the wake of Malawi’s failure to secure a market in India.

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Speaking after meeting Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism officials in Lilongwe on Tuesday, Chimbayo said the K4.8 billion allocation has only benefitted traders and not growers.

Chimbayo said a survey her organisation conducted in eight districts of the country revealed that farmers were seating on 23,000 metric tonnes of pigeon peas.

“We only visited eight districts but we estimated that, in total, farmers have over 50,000 metric tonnes of the crop. That is what forced us to go to government for intervention. We had initially proposed that they help us with machinery to turn the nandolo into a high-value product.

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“We were happy when we heard that Capital Hill had decided to intervene by buying the nandolo at K230 per kilogramme. However, today the excitement has fast disappeared as the allocation is only benefitting large traders,” Chimbayo said.

Among other things, Chimbayo cited corruption among Agricultureal Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) officials who are demanding huge sums of money, in form of kickbacks, for the farmers to trade their crop.

Chimbayo said the farmers toiled to produce the nandolo and, therefore, they are not willing to pay the bribes.

“As such you will find that farmers are spending many days on the queue thereby incurring huge transport costs,” she said.

The nandolo chief said Tuesday’s meeting with Ministry of Trade principal secretary and director ended in a stalemate as Admarc officials were not present.

“We have proposed to meet again in Blantyre on the matter so that Admarc officials can give their side of the story. Otherwise we are not happy,” Chimbayo said.

A visit to Luchenza Admarc Depot in Thyolo District last week revealed frustrated voices of farmers who trekked down from Mulanje, Phalombe, Thyolo and Chiradzulu districts to sell the crop.

Admarc Spokesperson, Agness Ndovi, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

But Admarc Board Chairperson, James Masumbu, told reporters on the sidelines of the launch of Admarc Strategic Plan last week that the purchase of the pigeon peas is going on well.

Masumbu could, however, not indicate what Admarc would do with the nandolo in the short term.

Farmers Union of Malawi President, Alfred Kapichira Banda, last week said it is annoying that for a long time peasant farmers have been struggling to get better returns of their produce.

Last month Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Goodall Gondwe, said the government has tapped K4.8 billion from the unforeseen circumstances vote of the 2018/19 budget to buy 23, 000 metric tonnes from local farmers.

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