As the price of maize and maize flour continues soaring on the market, a Thyolo-based organisation has petitioned President Peter Mutharika to intervene on the matter to save lives of Malawians struggling to acquire the commodity.
But an economics professor from the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College has condemned the grouping for trying to push the President to intervene in the market.
The Social and Economic Justice Organisation (Sejo) says Mutharika must exercise his powers by controlling the wild prices created by vendors and instead declare a maximum price.
Local traders are currently selling a 50 kilogramme (kg) bag of maize in the ranges of K11 000 ($15) to K14 000 ($19) against government recommended price of K5 500 ($8). Maize flour is fetching around K20 000 ($27) for the same quantity.
This is in contrast to the current minimum wage of civil servants which is about K18 000 ($25) per month against the escalating prevailing economic circumstances.
Sejo, in its open letter dated January 29 2016, has given Mutharika 48 hours (starting today) to intervene and resolve the soaring prices of the commodity which is already in short supply.
“As present in most parts of Malawi, a 50kg bag of maize is at K14 000. Maize flour is at K19 000 ($26). This is too much for poor Malawians and even those that are working in different sectors. This is due to the scarcity of maize in Admarc selling points… and traders are taking advantage of the situation; hence, the request for the President to intervene within 48 hours,” reads part of the letter signed by chairperson Harry Mikuwa, coordinator Joseph Saiden and Ben Chinawa, the administrative secretary.
In an interview yesterday, Mikuwa described the situation as a “great concern”, but expressed hope that the President would act with urgency as the issue concerns lives of Malawians.
“Almost every Malawian is currently panicking and at pains to bear these uncontrollable prices. The President assured Malawians that nobody would die of hunger, but there is no maize in Admarc selling points and majority of citizens cannot afford to buy the little available from private traders,” said Mikuwa.
He said the President should make a decree to force authorities release the stocks to Admarc selling points.
But presidential press secretary Gerald Viola said yesterday the President’s office was yet to receive the petition and “once it comes in, that is when we can respond effectively.”
“But still, I think we are personalising the issues too much to the President… I don’t know why people push anything to the Head of State. There are other issues people can deal with the relevant ministries unlike going to the President,” he said.
However, University of Malawi’s (Unima) Chancellor College economist Ben Kalua dismissed the group’s assertions for the President to dictate prices of any commodity, saying he has no mandate to do so.
“The President has no powers, he can’t do that [control prices] because traders are in business. They buy the commodity and have the control on their pricing,” he said.