Stakeholders in the agriculture sector are pilling pressure on the government to free the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) from political interference and establish a Price Stabilization Fund to ensure that maize producers benefit from their labour.
The development follows a public panel discussion in Lilongwe on maize marketing and pricing in Malawi organised by the Farmers Union of Malawi (Fum).
The discussion attracted representatives from the private sector, smallholder farmers, Parliamentarians, representatives of structured agriculture commodity markets, officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and the academia.
This comes against the background of a ban on maize exports imposed by the government.
Recently, the government also released the minimum farm gate prices of various agriculture produces with the minimum price for maize pegged at K170 a kilogramme.
But during the meeting, various stakeholders expressed their dissatisfaction with the way Admarc operates.
Farmers who attended the meeting emphasised that they are not against the ban but that they are looking for ready markets for the maize they have harvested that would offer better prices for the grain.
They pointed out that if the government’s decision puts the interest of the farmers first, then Capital Hill, through Admarc, should start buying maize from the farmers at a guaranteed support price.
“A support price is a price that will allow a farmer to grow maize again next season because the farm gate prices we are seeing right now of K50 a kilogramme will make it difficult for us to grow maize next season,” one of the farmers said.
FUM Chief Executive Officer Prince Kapondamgaga highlighted that political interference in maize trade is frustrating farmers in the country.
“Admarc has changed its role, instead of buying from farmers, it is buying from traders. Admarc is a government institution and governments are run by politicians. We know that most of the business that Admarc gives, whether its subsidy or maize markets, that business goes to companies that are connected to political individuals.
“Even when government has funds on time, they deliberately delay releasing those funds because they want their connections to buy the maize from farmers at a lower price and they start buying two or three months after harvest so they can buy from the traders,” Kapondamgaga said.
Chairperson for the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture Joseph Chidanti Malunga concurred with Kapondamgaga stressing that the vice is aggravating the plight of smallholder farmers.