Monday, February 4, 2008
GOVT SUSPENDS ZIMBABWE MAIZE EXPORTS
. Buying maize from local traders
at K1,700/50kg bag, reselling at K1,500
Government has suspended maize exports to Zimbabwe and has redirected the commodity to Admarc depots in an effort to address the maize shortage threatening some parts of the country.
Last week Government issued an order to the Grain Traders Association, through the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA), to stop sending the commodity to Zimbabwe. The order which Malawi News has seen said Admarc vehicles would instead be collecting the maize from the traders to its depots.
The Zimbabwe deal is shy of 117,000 metric tonnes to conclude the initial 400,000 metric tonnes which Malawi was expected to deliver in a period of 10 months starting April last year.
But NFRA General Manager Edward Sawerengera said his organization was not buying maize for Admarc saying Admarc has enough maize to feed the nation.
"We are still honouring the Zimbabwe deal," he said but when he was told that Malawi News had seen the documents confirming the suspension of exports, Sawerengera wondered saying: "Do you have a problem with that?"
In Blantyre the latest delivery of maize amounting to over 100 metric tonnes to Admarc depot at Charterland in Limbe was made on Monday. The maize was from Chenyumbu Trading in Chileka, belonging to grain trader Geoffrey Sadyaluanda, according to a delivery note with an NFRA letterhead.
At a meeting held in Lilongwe in December last year and attended by officials from Ministries of Finance and Agriculture, NFRA and Admarc, it was agreed that government should release between K400 million to K800 million to Admarc through NFRA.
"Government would not have funded Admarc directly that is why NFRA was involved. Government knew in December that the country was running out of maize," he said.
Apart from redirecting the commodity from Chenyumbu, NFRA has also redirected maize from Mlambe Traders and Central African Produce, according to a source at the NFRA office in Blantyre.
The source said the directive was made following a recommendation from the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture which recently assessed the country's levels of the staple during a tour.
Chairman of the Agriculture Parliamentary Committee Vitus Dzoole Mwale said following their tour across the country, the committee discovered that hunger was looming in the country and advised government to move maize from Admarc and NFRA warehouses to the districts where people are facing hunger.
"We visited almost all the districts in the country and according to what people were telling us we realized that hunger is looming," said Dzoole Mwale.
In an interview on Thursday Sadyalunda, who is also a member of the Board of Trustees for the Grain Traders Association, confirmed the suspension of the sale to Zimbabwe saying Admarc vehicles wee now ferrying the grain meant for Zimbabwe, to the organisation's warehouses.
Sadyalunda said the new arrangement would not affect their sales as government, through NFRA, still buys the grain at the same price of K34 per kilogramme.
Admarc is selling the same maize at K30 per kilogramme meaning that Government is making a loss of more than K4 per kilogramme or K200 per 50kg bag, when transportation and storage costs are factored in.
Admarc has of late been rationing maize in its depots in Blantyre and some other parts of the country due to shortage of the commodity, but the organization says there is no shortage of maize in thee country. It says rationing is aimed to stop unscrupulous business people from buying in bulk.
People in Blantyre are not allowed to buy more than 50 kilogrammes from the Admarc depots. On the parallel market maize is selling up to K2,000 per bag of 50 kilogrammes.
Sadyalunda said the rationing of maize, and Admarc’s purchase of the commodity from the private traders, was a sign that the levels of the grain in the country have gone down and that it is difficult to source maize from the farmers.
Ministry of Agriculture Principal Secretary Patrick Kabambe said he has called for a meeting with NFRA officials to explain what was happening.
Admarc did not respond to our questionnaire sent to them on Wednesday, but the organisations' Chief Executive Officer Charles Matabwa told MBC yesterday that there is enough maize in the country to last up to the next harvest.