By: Lloyd M’bwana
The country’s agricultural body, Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) has vehemently criticised the state controlled produce buyer Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) over its decision of procuring maize through private traders instead of buying directly from farmers saying the move will leave the rural poor farmers at the mercy of vendors who buy the grain at less than the Government set minimum prices.
The condemnation comes following government decision last month through Ministry Finance, Economic Planning and development granted Admarc a guarantee to borrow MK6.9 billion to purchase maize in the 2016 marketing season before private traders ransacked local farmers with low prices.
Eventually, Admarc on April 6, 2016 advertised a tender document for the supply and delivery of 2015/2016 season non-GMO white maize in the local papers indicating that it would buy 150,000 metric tons of maize from private traders within eight weeks from the date of signing contract.
“Admarc limited has budgeted funds to be used for the procurement of 150,000 metric tons of 2015/2016 season non-GMO white maize for human consumption and now invites sealed bids from eligible and qualified bidders for the supply and delivery of the maize within eight weeks from the date of signing contract.
“The bid shall be valid for a period of 90 days from the deadline for bid submission. All bids must be accompanied by a bid security as prescribed in the bid document in the following 17 Admarc deports Limbe, Luchenza, Balaka, Limbuli (Mulanje), Lilongwe, Malangalanga (Lilongwe), Salima, Chileka (Lilongwe), Ntchisi, Kasungu, Mponera, Tembwe (Mchinji), Thiwi (Dedza), Mzimba, Mzuzu, Chilumba (Karonga) and Chitipa”, reads Admarc tendering document.
But through a press statement released over the weekend and made available to The Maravi Post, Cisanet is against the idea of buying maize through private traders instead of directly from farmers and has called immediate suspension of the tender in a bid to protect poor farmers from vendors’ prices exploitation.
The agriculture body noted that terms are clear that ADMARC is entrusted with the responsibility of buying and selling agricultural produce from farmers in Malawi as a social responsibility, among its other functions.
As such ADMARC becomes very critical in the alleviation of poverty of most rural farmers when it buys their produce at the Government set minimum price. And that the early presence of ADMARC on the market also makes competition to be genuine on the market as players compete for the commodity (maize), the farmers thereafter benefit from good prices on offer.
“The 150,000 metric tonnes of maize if bought and released on the market in good time will help to lower prices and prevent many from queuing for days as it is projected that the 2015/2016 harvest will reduce due to the impact of the El Niño.
“The El Niño global weather event has caused prolonged dry spells across Malawi with little or no rain falling in many areas during the window for the planting of cereals such as maize and the outlook is already alarming. CISANET has however noted with concern that ADMARC is sourcing the 150,000 metric tonnes of maize from the private traders as per the tender notice published in the local daily of 6th April, 2016.
“The stand taken by ADMARC to buy maize from private traders will leave the rural poor farmers at the mercy of vendors who buy the grain at less than the Government set minimum prices. The reports reaching our office are showing that traders in some parts of the country are buying the recently harvested maize at as low as MK60 per Kg when the Government minimum price is set at MK160 per Kg. In other words, the rural poor farmers will continue to be exploited by vendors and thereby worsening their poverty even despite selling their produce”, reads in part the statement signed by Tamani Nkhono- Mvula Cisanet’s National Director.
Cisanet therefore lauded government for the recently issued a statement calling on the private sector and individual producers interested to venture into large scale maize farming for the 2016/2017 consumption season and beyond.
“But we would like to point out that the strategy to increase maize production and to stock the country’s Strategic Grain Reserves (SGR) to ensure national food security should not squeeze out the smallholder farmers from the lucrative market to sell for the SGR.
“Cisanet therefore proposes that initiative which will open a new avenue of investment in the local business in the irrigation sector should deliberately provide space for the smallholder farmers to be part of this venture. We propose that the smallholder farmers should be allocated at least 30 percent of the expected supply, which may be grown under rain fed while the large scale farmers should take up the remaining quota. NFRA can buy this 30% quota allocated to the smallholder farmers through ADMARC”, says Nkhono-Mvula
However, Nations Msowoya, Ministry of Finance Spokesperson is on recorded defending Admarc of sourcing maize in good time for fair competition with private traders.
But there was no immediate reaction from Admarc officials on Cisanet’s condemnation of it buying maize through private traders unlike directly from farmers.