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Opposition quizzes George Chaponda on maize purchase, price

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Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, George Chaponda, had a bit of torrid time in Parliament on Monday when Members of Parliament from the opposition benches asked several questions on the government’s response to the current food insecurity.

Some members, who said Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Mvac) report did not give accurate information on the number of people affected, accused Chaponda of bringing a report that has left out a lot of issues that Malawians want to know on the food situation

Leader of Opposition, Lazarus Chakwera, led the onslaught just after the minister presented a ministerial statement on the food situation in the country.

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Chakwera asked Chaponda to comment on the reports that he, personally, struck a deal in Brazil and received some kickbacks for the government to import maize from that country.

In his statement, Chaponda had mentioned Zambia and Romania as the countries that government is importing maize from.

He said this far, about 3.4 million out of 6.7 million food insecure people have been reached and maize from Zambia will be in the country soon.

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“The government has given an indication that [Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation] Admarc is purchasing maize from outside the country but there are reports that there is another deal in Brazil in which Admarc was not even involved but the minister himself and others are involved for their own benefits. How does the minister comment on these reports?” Chakwera said.

Although Chaponda said it was good to hear Chakwera’s frankness on the said Brazil deal reports, he said those are just the rumours on the social media and he has not been to Brazil for the said deal.

“As far as Brazil is concerned, this is news to me because nobody went to Brazil. That is not true,” Chaponda said.

Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Goodall Gondwe, also came to Chaponda’s rescue when he said the proposal to import maize from Brazil was quashed after noting that the price was too high and the next option was Romania where quality maize was found at a reasonable price.

Chakwera also asked the minister on the reasons behind the price of K12,500 per 50 kilogramme bag in Admarc markets at a time many Malawians, including tobacco farmers, are coming from an unproductive season which has left them without money to purchase maize.

Some legislators such as Peoples Party leader in the house, Uladi Mussa, went further to demand the reduction of maize price in Admarc markets from the current K250 per kilogramme to enable financially struggling Malawians access maize from the public grain marketer.

Chaponda, however, responded by saying Admarc is a commercial entity that borrowed money from banks and that money needs to be paid back.

PP spokesperson on finance, Ralph Jooma, accused government of doing things to please the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme at the expense of starving Malawians.

“How can you say you could not subsidise maize because you fear the loss of a programme not a life?” Jooma quizzed.

Towards the end of the day’s business, outspoken Rumphi East MP, Kamlepo Kalua, angered Chaponda when he repeated the Brazil deal reports.

“He still claims that I went to Brazil and we cannot continue to work on lies from social media. In line with standing order 102, I am asking the honourable member [Kalua] to produce evidence by tomorrow,” Chaponda said.

Kalua responded to Chaponda’s demand by saying he does not take ultimatums but he can bring evidence of the deal at his own opportune time.

But Speaker of Parliament, Richard Msowoya, used his powers and told Kalua to produce evidence by 9:30am today or risk being kicked out of the house.

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