The parliamentary Committee on Agriculture has reiterated its calls for the government to consider banning maize exports, saying the country may experience shortage of the commodity in the coming season due to rising fertiliser prices.
This comes as a statistics contained in the recent Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee report show that the number of people requiring relief food in the country stands at 1.5 million, about 43 percent lower than 2.6 million projected last year.
In an interview Thursday, the committee’s chairperson Sameer Suleman said the country may have lower yields if rising fertiliser prices were not contained.
He then warned that allowing people to export maize will expose the country to food shortage and rising prices.
“The government should ban the export of maize immediately because what is on the ground is that there is no enough maize. Therefore, in the best interest of all Malawians, it will be reasonable to suspend the exportation of maize now until we are sure that we have a surplus,” he said.
In a separate interview, Grain Traders and Processors Association Chairperson Grace Mijiga Mhango urged the government to purchase more produce through Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) and National Food Reserve Agency (NRFA) before exporting.
She further warned that government should not rely on maize in the hands of private sector players as some can informally export or hoard it at will.
Minister of Trade Sosten Gwengwe said the decision to export maize is informed by the food balance sheet given by the Ministry of Agriculture.
“The food balance sheet informs us that the country has achieved excess maize and people need to understand that if there are pockets of hunger in the country it means we will not be importing but we will use maize which is locally found,” he said.
Maize is a staple food for Malawi and the highest contributor to inflation’s Consumer Price Index.
In the 2020-21 National Budget, the government allocated K12 billion to NFRA and Admarc for maize purchases.
This year, maize production has been estimated at 4,581,524 metric tonnes (mt)— compared to 3 785,712mt in the 2019-20 agriculture season.
Justin Mkweu is a fast growing reporter who currently works with Times Group on the business desk.
He is however flexible as he also writes about current affairs and national issues.