KARONGA (MaraviPost):-There is a mutual syndicate in the northern district of Karonga between Malawian and Tanzanian traders for illegally exporting maize to neighboring countries including Tanzania, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), it has been learnt.
The development comes on the heels of the duped Zambia-maize saga where the fired agriculture minister George Chaponda, and some ADMARC officials are alleged to have corruptly been involved in the procurement process of about 4.3 metric tons of the grain.
This is also happening amid a Malawi government export ban of the staple food as the country is banking on good rains for the bumper harvest this year.
The Maravi Post understands there is high demand for maize in East Africa, which is fetching at MK18, 500 per 50 kilogram bag, compared to MK12, 500 on the local market for the same quantity.
It has been established that tons of maize are being bought from Kasungu, Dowa, Mchinji, and kept in rented warehouses in Karonga and Chitipa districts, before the crucial staple is then smuggled out of the country at night through the Songwe River.
In Karonga, the illegal traders are camping at Mwasulama village where the grain is loaded unto boats across Mtakisi River which drains into Songwe River before connecting to Tanzania and some Eastern African countries by road.
It has been also learnt that the Karonga-Chitipa border stretch with Tanzania, remains porous posing logistical challenges for law enforcement officials to execute their duties effectively by stopping these illegal activities.
Karonga Basic Need Action Group (BAG) Chairperson Godwin Ng’ambi, confirmed about the illegal syndicate of maize smuggling in the district, alleging that some business tycoons are conniving with political figures in government for the move.
Ng’ambi said that the illegal trade was happening amid the district’s dry spell, and he warns that if the act is not stopped, it will escalate to other parts of the country.
“It’s a secrete movement which some of us have found out exactly what is happening as we are also businessmen. Some government officials here are aware of the syndicate but they are deliberately paying a blind eye on the matter”, Ng’ambi said.
Authorities in the district, particularly the police disclosed that efforts are being made to arrest anyone flouting the maize export ban.
Center For Social Concern (CFSC), the country’s social monitoring group, which is working closely with BAG, expressed alarm over the matter and said such selfish activities could contribute to another food crisis if it not stopped.
CFSC Project officer for Urban Basic Needs Basket (UBNB) Irene Gumbo, announced that next week plans are underway to hold an inclusive-stakeholder meeting next week, on various social challenges affecting people in district.
“The reports of maize smuggling from Malawi to East Africa, are true as we were in the district last week, where people in the communities, told us about the syndicate. We are very worried with the rate the grain is being illegally export, considering that some districts including Karonga, Kasungu, Nsanje, and Phalombe will not have enough harvest despite good rains these experienced this growing season.
“In the next weeks, we are meeting stakeholders such as law enforcers, legislators, councilors, chiefs, and communities members, to map the way forward on various social ills affecting people in the district while calling the authorities to tighten security in all border districts in a bid to address the maize smuggling,” Gumbo said.