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Pressure eases on maize prices

Drops by 4% in January

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John Kapito

Prices of maize, Malawi’s staple commodity, went down by an average of 4 percent during the last weeks of January, defying lean season odds where, traditionally, they skyrocket due to scarcity.

In its Maize Market Report for January 2021, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) show that retail maize price in January was at K205/kilogramme (kg), about 35 percent lower than the same time last year. The price is K5 above the minimum farmgate price.

According to the report, retail maize prices, however, remained highest in the Southern Region and lowest in the Northern Region, as is the usual pattern.

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“Prices in the south and centre remained stable throughout December and most of January. Prices in the north also fell slightly in the first week of January but bounced back in the second week of the month,” reads the report.

During our spot checks in some markets in the Southern Region yesterday, we found that the grain was being sold within the range of K8,000 and K10, 500 per 50 kg bag.

In Lilongwe and other districts in the Central Region, the commodity was trading at 50 kg bag of maize ranged from K8, 000 to K9,000 but in some parts of other districts like Dedza, a 50 kg bag of the staple grain was selling at as low as K6,000.

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In Mzuzu and surrounding districts, the commodity was trading at an average of K11, 000.

Prices of maize have been going down in the recent weeks and consumer rights advocacy body, the Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama), attributes low prices set by State-run grain trader, Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc), at K160 per Kg.

In an interview Tuesday, Cama Executive Director John Kapito said the trends would help cushion most consumers from further possible economic effects of Covid.

“This means that consumers have a lot of relief because they can get a better value of their money when they go to the market so this is really coming at the right time,” Kapito said.

In a separate interview, Farmers Union of Malawi President Fryton Njolomole said the drop in prices at a period like this only shows that farmers are desperate to sell their maize because Admarc’s decision has affected prices.

“Farmers are yet to harvest; so, this is last year’s maize and it means farmers are just desperate to sell,” he said.

Continued drop in maize prices would have bearing on the countrys headline inflation—the rate at which prices of commodities change in an economy at a given period—which is projected to average 7.6 percent this year.

Already, the government has said it expects the country to produce a record maize output of over four million metric tonnes this year, thanks to the Affordable Input Programme and good rains.

The projection is way above the national food demand pegged at around 3.2 million metric tonnes.

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