Despite the country registering a bumper maize harvest during last agricultural season there are fears that there could be a scarcity of the commodity in the near future and the parliamentary committee on agriculture has advised government to consider issuing a maize export ban.
Among others, the Committee cited the heightening rise of fertilizer prices as a factor that would affect the amount of maize produce in the next growing season.
"The country may have lower yields if rising fertilizer prices are not contained... and allowing people to export maize will expose the country to food shortage and rising prices," Sameer Suleman, parliamentary agriculture committee chairperson, said.
A recent Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) report shows 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 but it could worsen based on the prevailing indicators.
According to Suleman, the ban would be in the best interest of all Malawians and that it would be reasonable to suspend exportation of maize now until the country was sure of a surplus.
Grain Traders and Processors Association Chairperson, Grace Mijiga Mhango, advised government to purchase more produce through Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC) and National Food Reserve Agency (NRFA) before exporting.
"Government should not rely on maize in the hands of private sector players as some can informally export or hoard it at will," Mijiga-Mhango warned.
But trade minister, Sosten Gwengwe, said the food balance sheet informs that Malawi has achieved excess maize.
"People need to understand that if there are pockets of hunger in the country it means we will not be importing but we will use maize which is locally found," Gwengwe said.
Maize is a staple food for Malawi and the highest contributor to inflation's Consumer Price Index.
In the 2020-21 National Budget, the government allocated K12 billion to NFRA and ADMARC for maize purchases.
This year, maize production has been estimated at 4,581,524 metric tonnes (mt)-- compared to 3 785,712mt in the 2019-20 agriculture season.
Source: Nyasatimes.