The Donor Committee on Food Security has on Wednesday angered Malawians who are struggling to buy maize in Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) depots due to the high price when it openly defended President Peter Mutharika’s decision to direct that the Admarc should be selling maize at K250, the price at which the commodity trader purchased the grain.
Mutharika disclosed his directive at his first media briefing that he held at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe after returning from New York where he had attended the United Nations General Assembly (Unga).
Last week, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, George Chaponda, said the new maize price is a response to the advice by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which cautioned government on subsidising maize in its September Review Mission Report.
According to the Daily Times, the committee has said Mutharika has taken a fiscally responsible action by setting what it calls a realistic, less market distorting, Admarc price for maize this year.
Speaking on behalf of the committee at the launch of the National Agriculture Policy and the National Irrigation Policy which took place in Lilongwe Wednesday, United States Ambassador to Malawi, Virginia Palmer, said the new price stopped “the staggering maize price inflation”.
“[It] has also resulted in the private sector selling at competitive prices. The government has gotten a bad rap in the media – unfairly, we believe – for ‘setting a higher price’ for maize.
“In fact, what the government did was to secure necessary maize and provide it to Admarc customers for the landed price at minimal subsidy. This reduced the fiscal risk of the government having to bail out Admarc later this year…,” Palmer said as quoted in the Daily Times.
She further argued that the new price has discouraged the private sector from continuing to hoard maize to sell at inflated prices later in the hunger season.
“If you will commit now (because late market intervention hurt Malawian farmers last year) to taking similar action next year, to ensure that Admarc prices conform to the market, it will make Malawi’s market operate more efficiently,” Palmer said to Mutharika.
In his address, Mutharika, who launched the two policies, said the growth of Malawi’s economy largely depends on the way the country plans in its agriculture sector.
“A year of a good harvest means everything to us. High productivity means so much to us. And as the last two years of hunger have eloquently spoken, bad years in our fields mean everything to all of us,” Mutharika said.
He said the country can only make the most out of its agriculture sector through proper planning which will be possible through the two policies which he had launched.
Mutharika also stated that the combination of the two policies means a revolution in agriculture and expressed optimism that all Malawians will see change in their lives because of the policies.