by NATION REPORTER (7/21/2008)
Traders have released 5,000 metric tonnes of maize to the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) in four days, beating a two-week deadline set last week by the Grain Traders and Processors Association at a meeting in Lilongwe.
The Lilongwe meeting was organised to find ways of availing maize to the public and break the vicious cycle of hoarding maize for anticipated inflated prices.
The association’s president Grace Mhango in an interview yesterday said she received confirmation from NFRA that the maize had been delivered, vindicating her earlier admission that maize is available in the country. She had blamed traders for the scarcity and exorbitant prices through hoarding.
The development also vindicates President Bingu wa Mutharika who has on several occasions accused some private traders of deliberately hoarding the grain to cause shortages and make a mockery of his administration for failing to secure food security for the country. Mutharika also accused the traders of trying to reap off poor people with exorbitant prices later in the year.
Said Mhango: "Our demand for the initial 5,000 metric tonnes was done as a test in finding out the real issues on maize and whether the scarcity was genuine. The prompt response from traders has proved a distortion of the market.
"We have proved maize is available and more will pour in because people are now beginning to understand that there should be no reason for hoarding. I am sure by next week we should stock not less than 10,000 metric tonnes."
A joint report by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS Net), the World Food Programme and FAO with funding from Usaid agrees with Mhango, saying maize is available in markets across the country but costs highly because of competition among traders for purposes of hoarding.
"To attract more supply, the buyers have been offering high prices to farmers, pushing prices up in the process. Soon after harvest, maize prices averaged K20 per kg but the situation changed suddenly following the intensification of the competition among buyers," reads part of the report dated June 16, 2008.
"It's shameful that the UDF party wants to take us back to the dark days,"
Mr Gwanda Chakuamba (2003)