President Peter Mutharika yesterday ordered police to track down and arrest all “criminal maize vendors” who connive with crooked Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) officials to purchase subsidised maize at night and resell it to poor citizens at exorbitant prices.
“This is outrageous and most criminal. It is moral recklessness which I am not going to tolerate, or allow to continue. I must warn everyone strongly that such atrocities by criminal Admarc maize vendors have to stop immediately,” the President fumed during an address to the nation.
He expressed concern over reports that there is critical shortage of maize at many Admarc depots.
Mutharika then dared members of the general public to be part of the dragnet that should lead to the arrest of the crooks who, he noted, sell a 50-kilogramme bag of maize at up to K15 000 ($20), after only acquiring such a bag for K5 500 ($8) from Admarc.
He said this crookedness has made government’s projection that up to 2.8 million Malawians would face hunger by this lean period to be a big under-calculation in terms of grain availability because ordinary people cannot afford the inflated prices offered by the vendors on the market.
“Consequently, some of them are now starving,” he lamented, indicating that the development threatens to undermine his assurance that no one would die of hunger, as government had ensured to buy maize within Malawi and from other countries.
Mutharka thanked development partners, including the World Food Programme (WFP), who helped his government in making relief support to those who needed it.
He ordered Admarc officials to replenish maize stocks and he expressed joy that more relief money is available to contain the situation.
The President’s warning comes barely two days after a Thyolo-based Social and Economic Justice Organisation (Sejo) petitioned him to act on soaring maize prices and its scarcity.