The Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) has vowed to penalise traders who are found secretly storing maize in order to trigger a price increase.
In a statement signed by CFTC executive director Charlotte Malonda, the government agency says it has conducted inspections and has found that maize sellers are hoarding the commodity in order to lower supply and eventually initiate a price increase.
The agency, which among other things was set up to protect consumers from unfair trading practices, also found that vendors are charging excessive prices for the staple food and using incorrect measures and weights with the aim of stealing from consumers.
The commission said it found instances of the malpractices in privately owned and ADMARC warehouses and selling points in Lilongwe, Mchinji and Dowa where CFTC went to monitor the availability and accessibility of maize to consumers.
Withholding of goods for speculative purposes is prohibited and is a criminal offence under Section 43(1)(g) of the Competition and Fair Trading Act (CFTA) and Section 6 of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA).
Likewise, section 43 of the CFTA prohibits traders from charging excessive prices which are exploitative to consumers and the offence attracts a fine of MK500,000 or an amount equivalent to the financial gains of the offence, whichever is higher, and five year imprisonment upon conviction.
The country is facing a maize crisis and reports shows that vendors across the country are taking advantage of the situation as they are now selling a 50Kg bag of maize at K13,000.