Tonse Alliance’s bumper yields exaggeration exposed as Malawi needs K27 bn for relief operation

Despite Malawi producing abundant maize in the past years, food insecurity continues to linger. 

The Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DODMA) has said it needs K27 billion to mount a humanitarian operation to provide relief items to about 1.5 million people that will be in dire need of food in the lean period of December to February.

This is contrary to what Tonse Alliance, under the leadership of President Lazarus Chakwera, has been preaching on the amount of maize available in reserves.

Commissioner for Disaster Management Affairs, Charles Kalemba, said in an interview in Mponela that currently, they are in discussions with stakeholders and development partners to secure funding for the relief operation.

Although Malawi had a bumper harvest last farming season, the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) has revealed that some people will need food assistance due to climatic shocks, including Cyclone Idai, that resulted in flooding in districts bordering Mozambique in the southern parts of the country, and dry spells in the central and northern regions.

Ironically, in March this year the Ministry of Trade announced a temporary lifting of the maize export ban, which had been in place since February 2018 (FPMA Food Policies) to help stabilize national grain supplies amid concerns over the weather-reduced harvest in 2018.

The Government decided to issue export licences following the update of the national food balance sheet by the Ministry of Agriculture in January 2021 that indicated the country would have a sizeable maize surplus built up from the bumper maize outputs in 2019 and 2020. 

But upon receiving MVAC report, the parliamentary Committee on Agriculture reiterated its calls for the government to consider banning maize exports, saying the country may experience shortage of the commodity in the coming season due to rising fertiliser prices.

Statistics contained in the recent MVAC report show that the number of people requiring relief food in the country stands at 1.5 million, about 43 percent lower than 2.6 million projected last year.

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