The National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) claims previous reports of maize going bad at its silos in Lilongwe was a ploy by past administrations to ‘rob’ Malawians of the staple food.
NFRA board chairperson Denis Kalekeni Monday alleged that most of the maize that was reported to have been discoloured would end up in the hands of some business people who would then sell the same maize to the agency.
“First of all it is important to admit that because of some cracks in the silos, the maize was being exposed to rain and therefore it would get rotten, but this happened a long time back.
“However on the other hand, most of the maize that was being drawn out of the silos as if it was rotten was completely good maize, this was total theft and I would like to assure Malawians that no maize has in the past two years discoloured and none will discolour in the future,” Kalekeni said.
In 2013, local media reported that about 4,821 metric tonnes of maize had gone bad in grain reserves across the country.
An assessment at that time characterised about 2,910 metric tonnes as dust and chaff, while 410 metric tonnes were classified as having high aflatoxin levels among others.
Later in 2019, the media also reported that 7,000 metric tonnes of maize which were under the care of the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) had discoloured due to moisture.
Currently, NFRA is operating under a shortfall of 80,000 metric tonnes of capacity in its due to structural damages at the Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Luchenza silos.
But Kalekeni said the capacity will be restored shortly after the arrival of reinforcements from Germany.
“In about a month or so, the silos (Luchenza) will now be operational and we will have stocks to assist the people here whenever there are food shortages,” Kalekeni said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe, who toured the silos in Luchenza said the maintenance works being done at Luchenza silos will provide 20,000 metric tonnes of storage capacity for maize in the southern region.
“This will provide the Southern Region with a readily available storage facility for the staple to assist in times of need,” Lowe said.
Luchenza silos have not been in full operation since being commissioned in 2010 by then president the late Bingu wa Mutharika due to structural challenges.
Local engineers have now redesigned the conveyor system which was crushing the maize.
Eric Msikiti is a Senior Reporter/News Producer at Times Group. Though relatively young, Eric boasts years of experience in Malawi’s media industry.