Retail prices of maize continue to escalate, rising to an average of K25 500 in June 2023, up from K12 750 the same period last year, published International Food Policy Research Institute (Ifpri) data shows.
This represents a 100 percent rise.
In a recent monthly maize market report, Ifpri data shows that month-on-month retail prices increased by six percent in June to K510 per kilogramme (kg) or K25 500 per 50 kg bag from an average of K490 per kg or K24 500 per 50 kg bag the previous month.
This is, however, despite some areas registering higher price increases of up to K600 per kg or K30 000 per bag.
At K30 000 per 50 kg bag, the price of the staple grain is K5 000 above government’s recommended K25 000 minimum prices.
Meanwhile, Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) sales were reported in one out of 26 markets monitored by Ifpri with no purchases reported at any of the monitored markets.
In an interview on Tuesday, Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture chairperson Sameer Suleman expressed concern over the delays by the government to release K6 billion for maize purchases amid rising maize prices.
He said: “This is a disaster in the making. Government is failing to release money for Admarc to buy maize and most of the maize is going to vendors yet, as a country, we do not have enough stocks for strategic grain reserves [SGR].
“All assessments are pointing to hunger and drought and it looks like the government is not bothered at all. We are asking them to immediately release the K6 billion balance to Admarc in order for them to enter the market and buy the maize.”
Last month, the Ministry of Agriculture said Admarc will this year not be involved in maize procurement as the function will be undertaken by the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA).
However, NFRA, which has only procured 8 300 metric tonnes (MT) from its target of 11 000MT at K550 per kg, said with other traders buying the commodity at K600 per kg, maize is not coming in large quantities as it used to.
But Suleman said NFRA does not have the capacity to buy from smallholder farmers, observing that the absence of Admarc will escalate the maize prices further as Admarc was also used for price stabilisation.”
On his part, Consumers Association of Malawi executive director John Kapito said it’s too late for Admarc to make an impact on maize prices when local traders have invaded and bought out most of the maize.
“Unfortunately, the absence of Admarc during the maize selling period will create a huge challenge on prices during the lean period,” he said.
In May, the government announced an allocation of K12 billion to NFRA towards maize purchases but only released K6 billion.
In Malawi, maize, as part of the food component, accounts for about 53.7 percent of the consumer price index, an aggregate basket of goods and services used for computing inflation.