Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture chairperson Sameer Suleman has asked Speaker of Parliament Catherine Gotani-Hara to empower the committee to carry out an inquiry into over 10 000 metric tonnes (MT) of maize that Minister of Agriculture Sam Kawale reported to Parliament was not fit for human consumption.
But in a new twist to the tale, Kawale has denied saying the maize was rotten.
In clarifying the issue in an interview, Kawale said the maize was classified as not fit for human consumption because part of it had just been fumigated.
He also clarified that the actual tonnage of the maize that was declared not fit for consumption was 12 378MT, not 10 000MT as he had indicated.
The minister further said the NBS Bank maize tonnage was 63 041.27MT and not 60 000MT.
He said: “In my statement, I said about 60 000MT, the actual figure is 63 041.27MT. I rounded it off to say about 60 000. That is what I said.”
The minister added that there was supposed to be another assessment for the 10 000MT after being fully fumigated, but government is yet to get a fresh report on whether the 10 000MT is fit for human consumption or not.
Ironically, Minister of Finance Sosten Gwengwe on Tuesday told Parliament that there was discoloured maize which was not fit for human consumption. He said the World Bank could not pay for the discoloured maize.
“NBS Bank sought approvals that they can dispose of that maize to the animal feed manufacturers and that approval has been really given so that they can recoup that money by selling it,” said Gwengwe.
Suleman said it is unfortunate that Kawale and Gwengwe are giving conflicting information.
“They should not play with the issue of food. That is playing with lives of Malawians,” he said.
Asked to confirm if the maize was discoloured as earlier stated by Gwengwe, Kawale said he had not received a report on that, adding the only report he got was for the 50 000MT.
Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, Suleman said already there are rumours that about 38 000MT of the said maize has gone missing.
He said: “Malawians need to know the truth. If this maize is rotten, we want to go and see physically that this is the rotten maize. If someone bought that maize, we want to go and see the cows that ate that 10 000MT. We want the truth on this maize.”
Suleman recalled that it is not the first time Malawians are hearing of maize going bad, saying in the past there were reports of maize going bad but it went missing.
“The habit of stealing from Malawians under the disguise of rotten maize needs to stop,” he said.
The Speaker did not clearly indicate if the committee will be granted its request