Ministry of Trade has started issuing maize export licences for 500 000 metric tonnes (MT) of maize.
The ministry’s Principal Secretary Christina Zakeyu said in a statement yesteday that the decision follows an updated national food balance sheet as of June 30 2021, which indicates that the country is food secure with enough stocks to last until the next harvest.
She said: “Maize export licences will only be issued to exporters with proof of verifiable maize stocks from the previous agricultural season.
“The licences to be granted will have a validity period of three months from the date of issue.”
The exporter will be required to undertake a commitment to inform the Ministry of Trade about the export proceeds received after 180 days from the date of export.
In March this year, Ministry of Trade partially lifted the maize export ban to mop up last year’s maize stocks to create space for the anticipated maize surplus this year.
However, the ministry stopped issuing export licences on April 23 to allow for restocking of the grain reserves with the new maize harvest.
The decision to issue export permits comes in the wake of a Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee report in August 2021 indicating that Malawi needs 35 296MT of maize valued at K7.94 billion to feed 1.5 million people requiring food relief during the 2021/22 consumption year.
This is also happening at a time the country’s strategic grain reserves at National Food Reserve Agency are almost empty as Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) is yet to deliver maize it was mandated to buy for the reserves.
In an interview yesterday, agriculture policy development analyst Tamani Nkhono Mvula said government needs to exercise caution with the decision as it may create unnecessary shortage of the staple grain on the market.
“I hope there has been consultations around stakeholders. If we are not careful, we may end up getting deficits on the markets which may lead to maize shortage,” he said.
Retail maize prices in November continued trending below Admarc’s selling price of K205 per kilogramme (kg), averaging K150 per kg.
As of the end of October, International Food Policy Research Institute figures show that retail maize prices were also lower at an average of K7 400 per 50 kg bag than in Zambia at K8 000, South Africa K9 000, Mozambique at K10 500, Rwanda at K 10 000, Tanzania at K12 500, Kenya at K15 000 and Uganda K18 000.
In an interview yesterday, Grain Traders Association of Malawi president Grace Mhango said while they commend government for the timely decision, export markets are yet to open.
She said: “The only hiccup is in conditions which we feel are not friendly to farmers. We are observing that it will only be traders making the exports.
“We are hoping that we will not be affected by the lockdowns. We are targeting Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Rwanda.”
According to first round crop production estimates, Malawi was expected to produce 4.4 million MT of maize, which is 42 percent above the five-year average and 29 percent above the estimated national requirement of 3.4 million MT.