The Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) has called for prompt response on maize crisis in order to save lives, saying the current maize situation in the country is a fatal disaster in waiting.
Speaking during a press briefing on Monday, CDEDI Executive Director Sylvester Namiwa said that like what often happens when disaster strikes, the maize crisis will mostly affect vulnerable and marginalised Malawians in both urban and rural areas, and needless loss of lives cannot be ruled out.
Namiwa added that the authorities need to address the matter with urgency it deserves considering that the country has maize that will only last two months, if it were to be supplied nationwide.
He said this is despite Parliament approving MK12 billion for buying maize, coupled with the changing of the government financial year to allow for timely procurement of the staple food.
CDEDI has also expressed serious reservations with the approach by Parliament in fighting the biting hunger saying it is selective and unsustainable.
He has since asked Leader of Opposition to facilitate tabling of the Maize Bill and that Government should immediately release maize to all Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation selling points.
CDEDI has also given Parliament seven days to deliberate and pass the maize Bill, saying failure to do so will prompt his organisation to camp at the Parliament Building in Lilongwe from Monday, August 7, 2023 until the Bill is passed, maize is made available, and its price is reduced.
In their wisdom, legislators have adopted a motion by Leader of Opposition, Kondwani Nankhumwa for government to make maize available in all the districts that were hit by Tropical Cyclone Freddy.
“Our reservations have been augmented by 91 percent of employable Malawians being jobless, coupled with the effects of cyclone Freddy, and drought in the case of Karonga. Given that the Tonse Alliance administration set the minimum price of maize at MK500 a kilogramme, translating to MK25,000 per 50-kilogramme bag,
how do we expect those that lost almost everything to buy maize at that price,” queries Namiwa.
He added that at the prevailing MK50,000 minimum wage, the majority of Malawians
can also not afford to buy the maize.
“It is time those holding positions on trust of the people, especially the Executive and the Legislative arms of government acted in the interest of their masters, notably the ultra poor,” he said.
The CDEDI leader argued that it is clear that government has, therefore, no choice but to release the maize to all the parts of the country and at the same time reduce the minimum price by half.
“Similarly, a social protection mechanism should be put in place to ensure that the ultra-poor receive free food,” he said.
He then emphasised that there is no need to remind members on both sides of Parliament and government that majority of the population threatened with starvation are the ones that turned up enmasse to vote for them in 2019.
“Instead of pressing the panic button or softening regulations on maize imports, CDEDI is imploring Parliament to immediately suspend relevant Standing
Orders and come up with an emergency maize bill,” he said.
Namiwa never minced words by saying that the current approach to begin rationing maize today, let alone to be thinking of imports when there is acute shortage of forex in the country, signifies intellectual bankruptcy.
He said the revelation that maize currently available in the country will only take the country up to October, the decision to release maize for sale is very insensitive.
“This is so bearing in mind that while the staple food is selling at about MK30, 000 per 50kg bag in the Central Region, in some parts of the Southern Region, the same bag is fetching between MK40,000 and MK60,000. Therefore, reasoning behind releasing the maize for sale is discriminatory and inconsiderate to the vulnerable and marginalized food insecure households,”
As a long term solution, Namiwa said through the said Maize Bill, government should engage Illovo and Salima Sugar companies, and other large scale commercial farmers to grow maize through irrigation.
“There should also be an initiative to tap the underground water to enable prison facilities engage in irrigation farming. Likewise, those in the lakeshore districts should be provided solar pumps or canals to grow maize. Given that most Malawians are yet to adopt alternatives to maize, it is imperative to increase production of the staple food,” he said.