MALAWI – Malawians may soon enjoy cheaper maize meals as the average price of maize is slowly easing with freshly harvested maize coming onto the market, The Nation reports.
This comes after the International Food Policy and Research Institute (IFPRI) reported that maize prices in the country increased by 24% month-on-month to an average of K633 (US$0.63) per kilogram (kg), a 237% higher compared to the same period in 2022.
Maize is an important crop in the country’s economy and as part of the food component, contributes about 45.2% to the Consumer Price Index, an aggregate basket of goods and services that is used for computing inflation.
According to The Nation, the prices have declined by 34% from about K41 000 in mid-March this year to around K27 000 per 50 kilograms (kg) bag at the start of this week in some key markets such as Blantyre, Thyolo, Phalombe, and Mulanje.
The authorities attribute the decline to the restoration of transport linkages that were destroyed by the recent Tropical Cyclone Freddy, particularly in the Southern Region.
However, the Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) has hinted that the low prices will be short-lived due to several factors.
Speaking in an interview, Cama executive director John Kapito feared that the prices will not be sustainable as the country registered poor harvest due to inadequate farm inputs under the Affordable Inputs Programme.
Kapito added that high fertilizer prices and the impact of Cyclone Freddy that hit the country in mid-March might also affect the season’s productivity.
“The prices will soon rise and our warning to families that are selling their maize now is that they don’t have to sell all the maize,” he said.
National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi chief executive officer Betty Chinyamunyamu on her part has called upon the government to provide financing to Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation in good time so that they can go on the market and start buying the maize.
According to her, the call is envisioned to secure the available stocks as a measure to secure shortages in the future.
Rice farmers want structured markets
Meanwhile, rice cooperatives in the country have called for the establishment of local structured and organized markets for the crop to motivate the farmers to boost output as well as investment in their agribusiness.
Ibrahim Benesi, the Rice Development Trust vice-chairperson revealed during a Rice Marketing Conference in Lilongwe.
According to Benesi, rice is a cash crop with huge potential to supplement the foreign exchange that the country gets from other crops, as such, there is a need to improve production and marketing.
However, he stated that the sector is underprivileged for the lack of an organized market for rice which demotivates farmers from investing in their business.
Benesi said there is potential to produce more rice, observing that out of the 500 000 hectares (ha) available for rice production, the country only utilizes about 100 000ha which means the rest of the land remains idle.
He expressed concern that most of the farmers sell their rice to vendors or intermediate buyers which does not bring them enough earnings, advising individual rice farmers to join cooperatives to benefit from economies of scale.
According to the Malawi National Rice Development Strategy that ran from 2017 to 2021, the rice sector faces many challenges which include low production and productivity of smallholder rice farmers.
The strategy further said there is an average of 58% yield gap for improved varieties and a 41% yield gap for hybrid varieties.