There are many things we can joke about, ladies and gentlemen, but we must never joke about food. Well, if you must know, issues to do with food have been top of the bill lately, with the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) at the heart of it all.
The Admarc General Manager Rhino Chiphiko put it bluntly the other day by saying whoever indicated that this country would have surplus maize within the regions of one million metric tonnes from our previous harvest must have been hallucinating, for what the State grain marketer has established on the ground is that there won’t be enough maize for it to buy, using the money which the parastatal recently identified.
Well, I am sure the system must have the right answers because what I know (and I am sure many people are equally aware) is that, every now and then, the government, through Ministry of Agriculture, carries out an exercise dubbed ‘crop estimates’ which gives a general outlook to the public of how much yield will be realised in a growing season. There are officers who actually go on the ground to do the assessment. Therefore, this one must be resolved internally between the concerned government agencies; otherwise, what Malawians know is that there will be surplus maize this year…where and how you are going to get it, that is none of our business.
I was going to come down hard on the issue of fertiliser subsidy as well but it looks like President Lazarus Chakwera stole all the thunder already when he warned the said ‘cartels’ that have been behind the capture of the fertiliser supply systems to think again as he would not allow anyone to deliberately mess up the gains that have been attained through the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP). It was even speculated on some social media platforms that the price of fertiliser such as Urea in some districts immediately tumbled as a 50 kilogramme bag, which was fetching around K40,000, is now trading between K27,000 and K35,000.
We cannot and must not toy around with agricultural issues, ladies and gentlemen, because we all know that this forms the backbone of the Malawi economy. Yes there has been talk about exploring other sectors with potential but they say a bird in hand is worth two in the bush, hence we should not take agriculture for granted.
Those who have encouraged the citizenry to put much effort in agriculture recognise just how important the sector is to the country, whether for subsistence or commercial farming. Besides maize, even that which is regarded as Malawi’s green gold, tobacco, relies on fertiliser.
Speaking of gold, it felt great the other day to hear the Reserve Bank of Malawi waxing lyrical about the billions of Kwacha worth of gold they have managed to buy after the government finally opened up and allowed small artisans. As is usually the case, Capital Hill had for a long time been in denial about the existence of gold in some of the districts with potential until somebody woke up and realised that we could be losing out on a very important source of foreign exchange. I hope it is not too late.
I am very sure that, just like it has been revealed of cartels that were deliberately “springing out trouble” on fertiliser prices, there must have been some hotshots in the sector exploiting the mining business who did not want to see the ordinary citizen doing business on an equal footing with them. Stories have been told now and again of some individuals and entities that bought land in areas with gold mining potential (well, I don’t know how true that is but we certainly have heard that they are literally sitting on gold). It is my prayer and hope that the ordinary person has been taken on board this time on this money-spinning train to do with minting gold.
Stephen Dakalira is a seasoned Journalist who works as Times Group’s Online and Digital Executive Editor. He is also the Assistant Editor of The Sunday Times Newspaper, and author of Full Circle column which appears in Malawi News; all of these under the Times Group stable.
He has previously worked in key positions for some of Malawi’s key media institutions such as Malawi News Agency, Capital FM Radio and Star Radio (Now Timveni Radio).