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NFRA yet to start purchasing maize

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The National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) has not yet started buying maize from farmers in cooperatives as the country faces an 18.9 percent maize harvest reduction in the 2021-22 agriculture year.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture Madalitso Kambauwa Wirima said in Parliament Thursday that the agency will start buying the stable grain soon in an effort to boost the country’s food reserves.

While stating that maize harvest has gone down to 3.7 million metric tonnes (MT) as compared to the 4.5 million MT realised in the 2020-21 agriculture year due to climatic shocks, Wirima in her Ministerial Statement said government will ensure no Malawian dies from hunger.

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She indicated that there are internal logistical arrangements in which maize is being moved from areas with a surplus to hotspot areas.

“…this gives us confidence that this country remains stable in terms of maize availability, even before factoring in private sector stocks. However, this will not let government be complacent on the food security situation; hence, we will ensure that more grain is mopped up to the Strategic Grain Reserves,” Wirima said.

According to the deputy minister, the official maize stocks held by government through NFRA and Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) stand at 206,580 MT.

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Of the said tonnage, 29,203 MT are in the custody of NFRA while Admarc is holding 177,377 MT.

“NFRA will start procuring maize from cooperatives soon using the K12 billion allocated in the budget and they are expected to procure about 50,000 metric tonnes of the staple grain. This will help in the country’s preparedness in case of any eventualities such as natural disasters as well as price stabilisation,” Wirima added.

Member of Parliament (MP) for Blantyre North Constituency Francis Phiso, however, decried the fact that in some areas where hunger has already manifested, Admarc depots have not yet opened.

Two weeks ago, the Ministry of Agriculture directed the immediate commencement of maize sales in Likoma, Nsanje and Chikwawa districts at a ration of 25 kilogrammes (kg) or less per person following reports of deteriorating food security in the three districts.

But agriculture policy analyst Leonard Chimwaza warned that the rationing could breed corruption within the supply chain.

“This is a clear indication that maize is needed not only in the three districts but also in the other districts. On the rationing aspect, we need to make sure that the authorities are desisting from corrupt practices,” Chimwaza said.

Admarc is selling maize at the recommended price of K300 per kg following a recent hike from K209 per kg by government.

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