Lilongwe, 7th April, 2016: CISANET has noted with gratitude the pro-activeness that ADMARC has undertaken by budgeting funds for the procurement of 150,000 metric tonnes of the 2015/2016 season for human consumption while maize is available on the market.
It is also worth mentioning that sourcing the maize locally will save the country of the much needed foreign exchange as huge volumes of the same were exported to neighbouring countries as ADMARC tried to fill in the gap of the maize shortage of the 2014/2015 season.
The 150,000 metric tonnes of maize if bought and released on the market in good time will help to lower prices and prevent many from queuing for days as it is projected that the 2015/2016 harvest will reduce due to the impact of the El Niño.
The El Niño global weather event has caused prolonged dry spells across Malawi with little or no rain falling in many areas during the window for the planting of cereals such as maize and the outlook is already alarming.
CISANET has however noted with concern that ADMARC is sourcing the 150,000 metric tonnes of maize from the private traders as per the tender notice published in the local daily of 6th April, 2016.
It should be stated in very clear terms that ADMARC is entrusted with the responsibility of buying and selling agricultural produce from farmers in Malawi as a social responsibility, among its other functions. As such ADMARC becomes very critical in the alleviation of poverty of most rural farmers when it buys their produce at the Government set minimum price.
The early presence of ADMARC on the market also makes competition to be genuine on the market as players compete for the commodity (maize), the farmers thereafter benefit from good prices on offer.
The stand taken by ADMARC to buy maize from private traders will leave the rural poor farmers at the mercy of vendors who buy the grain at less than the Government set minimum prices. The reports reaching our office are showing that traders in some parts of the country are buying the recently harvested maize at as low as MK60 per Kg when the Government minimum price is set at MK160 per Kg. In other words, the rural poor farmers will continue to be exploited by vendors and thereby worsening their poverty even despite selling their produce.
It should therefore be pointed out that ADMARC should not abrogate its social responsibility of buying and selling agricultural produce from farmers in Malawi.
We want ADMARC to open all its rural markets and buy the maize directly from farmers so that they are saved from exploitation by vendors while at the same time ensuring that their poverty will be reduced when they earn reasonably enough from the sale of their produce.
In a related development, CISANET welcomes Government intentions to engage the private sector in irrigation maize production for the Strategic Grain Reserves in an attempt to guarantee food security in the country.
Government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, recently issued a statement calling on the private sector and individual producers interested to venture into large scale maize farming for the 2016/2017 consumption season and beyond.
But we would like to point out that the strategy to increase maize production and to stock the country’s Strategic Grain Reserves (SGR) to ensure national food security should not squeeze out the smallholder farmers from the lucrative market to sell for the SGR..
CISANET hence proposes that initiative which will open a new avenue of investment in the local business in the irrigation sector should deliberately provide space for the smallholder farmers to be part of this venture. We propose that the smallholder farmers should be allocated at least 30 percent of the expected supply, which may be grown under rain fed while the large scale farmers should take up the remaining quota. NFRA can buy this 30% quota allocated to the smallholder farmers through ADMARC.
As CISANET we are happy that Government has responded to our earlier requests to identify companies for the same purpose. However Government should reserve a market quota for smallholder farmers to sell their maize as this is their source of livelihood.