Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) has asked the government to allow maize exports to prop up poor grain prices which have left farmers in losses.
MCCCI President, Karl Chokotho, said this Thursday when he opened a trade fair in Lilongwe.
“We have recently seen tendencies by government to stand in the way of businesses that want to export excess maize. This situation has sadly resulted in extremely poor prices for the crop, yet across the border in Tanzania, maize is in great demand and selling at three times the official minimum price in Malawi,” Chokotho said.
He said this was against overarching goal of Malawi’s economic policy which is to turn this country from an importing and consuming nation into a producing and exporting nation.
“We are aware of government’s sensitivities that if it doesn’t rain normally next agriculture season, the country may face the likelihood of shortage of our basic food commodity and perhaps experience famine.
“We appreciate that consideration but that stance should not be taken at the expense of farmers who day in, day out toiled to grow the maize for purposes of earning an income,” he said.
Chokotho said the ban or restricted export of maize is making the local farmer poorer, saying in Wednesday’s newspapers, average prices quoted for maize ranged from K60 to K140 per kilogramme despite the government instituting a minimum price of K170 per kilogramme.
“This is because although Admarc is supposed to be buying the commodity, it has limited financial capacity. As a matter of fact, Admarc was in the market for only two weeks and has since run out of cash, thus leaving farmers desperate,” he said.
He, therefore, told the government not to continue suppressing the market for maize by not allowing exports, saying this was killing the initiative for farmers to grow more maize next year.
“In any case, farmers are unlikely to buy inputs in the coming season because of these poor prices,” Chokotho said.
In response, Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development, Francis Kasaila, described maize production in the country as complex.
He said the government heavily subsidises maize production in the country through the subsidy programme, therefore, the government has much interest in maize production than the private sector.
“The majority of maize production in the country is done by smallholder farmers who are subsidised by the government. This is why we have a lot of interest in this matter,” he said.
He said the government would also like to ensure that there is enough maize in the country to last until the planting season.
He, therefore, called for an emergency meeting between the government and the MCCCI officials and other stakeholders to discuss the issue.
“Let all stakeholders take this as a matter of urgency,” said Kasaila, who stood in for Minister of Trade and Industry, Henry Mussa, who is reportedly in Japan on official duties.
At least 30 companies are exhibiting their products in 60 pavillions mounted at Capital City Mall.