LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-The civil right group Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) is urging Malawi authorities to push for reduce sugar prices which is exorbitant compared to neighbouring countries.
The call comes amid reports that Illovo Sugar is against government decisions to allow other players to come into the country for sugar trading.
This comes also as Illovo Sugar Company is making huge profits on the product.
Currently, Malawi sugar is pegged at MK1,500.00 per 1 kilogram.
Addressing the news conference on Tuesday, June 6, 2023, CDEDI Executive Director Sylvester Namiwa said Malawians are being robbed on sugar.
“The Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) wishes to inform Malawians that it has written the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament and the Parliamentary Committee on Trade and Industry to immediately conduct a public inquiry on sugar production and pricing in the country.
“The call follows a meeting that Minister of Trade and Industry Hon Simplex Chithyola held on Monday, June 5, 2023, with selected stakeholders in the sugar industry in reaction to the leaked correspondence from Illovo Sugar Company dated May 9, 2023 under the headline ISSUE OF A SUGAR IMPORT LICENSE BY THE MINISTRY OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY,” says Namiwa.
He added, “Gauging from massive reactions the aforementioned letter generated, it is clear that Malawi is sitting on a time-bomb as far as sugar production and pricing as well as tax regimes are concerned.
“The debate prompted CDEDI to do a simple survey on sugar prices in the neighbouring countries, and the following were the findings; In Zambia, a kilogramme of sugar sells at a maximum of US$0.90 (approximately MK924.60); In Mozambique it is pegged at US$ 0.46 (an equivalent of MK472.58) while in Tanzania a kilogramme of the commodity fetches US$0.45(approximately MK465.42)”.
“From these findings, it is clear that Malawians are paying a lot for sugar and most other basic commodities. It is against this backdrop that CDEDI decided to write PAC to invoke its constitutional powers to set up a public inquiry to help Malawians understand why they are being made to pay through the nose for basic commodities such as sugar.
“Similarly, through the public inquiry, CDEDI believes Malawians will know whether the tax regime prevailing in the sugar industry was designed in their interest,” said Namiwa.
He observes further, “Elsewhere, governments formulate laws and regulations that protect low income earners from exploitation, while on the other hand promoting competition as opposed to shielding monopolies.
“We demand transparency and accountability from the Malawi Revenue Authority, the Ministry of Finance and other relevant government authorities by justifying the current tax arrangement and the motivation behind the same”.
“Needless to remind Malawians that any piece of legislation that does not serve them is a bad law that ought to be rejected. In the same vein, we demand a
complete overhaul of laws that protect selfish business interests and, thereby, punishing the same people the law is supposed to protect and serve.
“Malawians may wish to know that the fall of sugar prices will lead to an instant fall of many other basic commodities, therefore, the indulgence of PAC and the
Parliamentary Committee on Trade and Industry on this matter is desired by Malawians, especially the poor that struggle to meet daily needs”, he said.
Namiwa appeals, “Last but not the least, CDEDI assures the nation that it will not rest until sugar prices fall. If sugar is an affordable basic commodity in neighbouring countries, why should it be beyond the reach of the majority of Malawians? Malawians deserve decent living too”.