K18 billion for relief maize?

The last time Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) wanted to fund its cadres, was through procurement of maize. What the DPP government did in 2017 was to finance National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) to purchase maize. That year, the local farmer had overproduced maize. Instead of opening Admarc markets in good time, government delayed to ensure that middlemen—most likely, DPP cadets—bought most of the crop. Then in September—armed with K5.4 billion of taxpayers’ money—NFRA announced a ‘free-for-all’ supply of maize to the national silos.

“Bring the maize to us,” NFRA announced the restocking exercise to the press on September 21. By end of that week, NFRA premises were jam-packed with semi-auto trucks carrying thousands of tonnes of maize. The poor farmer with an ox-cart could not find his way to NFRA.

When poor farmers cried foul and NFRA was asked why they bought maize the way they did, it had an easy explanation. The agency said the change had come about following an overwhelming tender submission showing that many people had maize which they were ready to sell.

“We just want to level the playing field so anybody who has the maize of any quantity and can ferry it to our depots, is free to do so. The process will be on a first- come-first-served basis,” its CEO stated.

As September dragged on, DPP cadets had ‘Christmas’ at NFRA pocketing K130 per each kilo of maize or K130 000 per metric tonne they delivered after buying the same maize from the farmer at K50 per kg!

I am tiring you with this story because what is about to happen this year, is history repeating itself. Malawians have to sleep with one eye-open for the better part of the next four-years because DPP is back in town.

This week, we on the streets, learnt with shock that the total humanitarian maize that is needed to feed the hungry people is estimated at 33 810 metric tonnes (MT) to cost you and I, K19.14 billion.

In its latest Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) report government says some 1.1 million people, or 7 percent out of the total estimated rural population of 14.7 million will not be able to meet their annual food requirement this year.

To us on the street, this amount is the money that Malawi will waste again feeding people who government also spent another K42 billion on last year through Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp). This is a total of K60 billion going down the drain. If this is not total mismanagement of resources, then what is?

What is even more shocking about the DPP government is the lack of clarity in how it conducts its business. In the statement issued in the week, government is not clear how it will purchase the said maize.

We on the streets, shake with fear when procurement of maize is mentioned by this government. Apart from the 2017 scam mentioned above, our memories are still fresh with how the Ministry of Agriculture messed up the Zambia maize import deal which is popularly known as Maizegate.

So this time around who is going to pocket the K18 billion meant for maize relief? Is it the local farmer who toils to produce maize or some ‘blue-eyed boy’ who masquerades as an agro dealer?

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