Nankhumwa blames traders for worsening hunger in Malawi

Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Kondwani Nankhumwa says the current food insecurity has been worsened by traders who want to make abnormal profits.

Nankhumwa was speaking in Parliament on Friday when he presented a ministerial statement on the national food security situation.

He said the country has enough maize stocks but the food security situation has been exacerbated by collusion of traders.

According to Nankhumwa, as of 10th February, 2020, the official maize stocks held by government institutions – National food Reserve Agency (NFRA) and ADMARC – was estimated at about 19,992 metric tonnes of maize.

He added that the ministry estimates that the private sector is still keeping about 55,000 metric tonnes which means that current national stocks (private plus government stocks) stand at 74,992 metric tonnes.

The reserves, however, fall short with about 197,000 metric tonnes of the recommended minimum stocks.

In the 2019/2020 budget, the Ministry of Agriculture was allocated MK10 billion for the procurement of maize to replenish the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR)

On this, Nankhumwa noted that procurement of maize this year face enormous hurdles ranging from traders hoarding stocks to unnecessary bargaining of prices to make abnormal profits.

He also noted that 99 bidders were awarded contracts to supply maize to NFRA but all of them did not deliver the maize to the agency with price being the main reason.

“The situation threatens food security status in the country and renders effective planning and decision making difficult for government,” he said.

Nankhumwa then told the House that government has been adjusting the price to try and attract suppliers to build up stocks at the silos.

The minimum price of maize was set at K150 per kilogram but was later revised to K180 – K200, then K250 and recently to K310 per kilogram which is open up to end February 2020.

“Despite these price adjustments, traders continued hoarding maize stocks with the objective of making abnormal profits at the expense of fellow Malawians.

“Madam Speaker, prior to the recent maize price adjustment of K310, NFRA had only procured about 774 metric tons while ADMARC procured 15,839 metric tonnes,” he said.

Nankhumwa, however, added that the recent adjustment has brought positive response on the inflows.

“As of 10th February 2020, NFRA has managed to procure 4,118 metric tonnes while ADMARC has procured 2,171 metric tonnes. There are high prospects of getting more maize as the two institutions have experienced increased traffic of delivery trucks,” he said.

According to Nankhumwa, a total of 1,247,582 out of 4,141,374 farm households, representing 30.1%, had no food of their own production as of 7th February, 2020.

The worst hit ADDs were Machinga (43.8%), Blantyre (35.9%) and Lilongwe (35.6%) while the least affected ADD was Karonga where 6.1% of farm households were reported to be food insecure.

The minister told the House that measures put in place to ensure food security include the release of 7,000 metric tonnes of maize from the Strategic Grain Reserves through ADMARC to be sold at a subsidized price in all identified deficit areas.

Other measures are procurement of 18,000 metric tonnes of maize flour and the plan to contract farmers, cooperatives and companies that have capacity to produce and supply maize for reserves.

He said: “This will protect government in the event that market forces lead to price fluctuations.”