State produce trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) has reopened its unit markets to purchase more maize from farmers after government provided an additional K4 billion for the exercise.
Admarc said it temporarily closed the markets after opening them earlier this month to undertake a stock-taking exercise in some of its produce warehouses.
Briefing journalists in Blantyre yesterday, Admarc acting chief executive officer (CEO) Margaret Mauwa Roka said the produce trader has opened 250 unit markets out of 320 across the country’s three administrative regions.
However, she did not indicate the exact tonnage of maize Admarc plans to buy, stating that the exercise will go up to September this year.
To protect the rights of farmers during the exercise, Mauwa Roka encouraged communities to form market committees to monitor and oversee the process.
She said: “The market committee should comprise group village head in [the area] which the market is situated, chairperson, secretary, one member of area development committee, Admarc market supervisor and security personnel. This will ensure that smallholder farmers are the sole beneficiary as a way of incentivising the farmers to grow more next season.”
Admarc is buying the maize at K170 per kilogramme (kg) and also selling maize harvested from the previous season at K12 500 per 50kg bag.
In June this year, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe told Parliament that the government had allocated K5 billion for Admarc to start buying maize from smallholder farmers, but only K1 billion was made available at the time.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development spokesperson Osborne Tsoka has said final estimates of the maize harvest for the 2016/17 farming season stand at 3 464 139 metric tonnes.
And responding to a question on management of post-harvest losses, Tsoka said: “The ministry has intensified campaigns to farmers on post-harvest handling of maize. The use of metallic silos upon treatment with proper insecticides is one of the measures that are being advocated to the farming communities.”
In an earlier interview, Civil Society Agriculture Network (CisaNet) executive director Pamela Kuwali said as a long-term solution, Admarc should intervene in the market as soon as farmers start selling their produce.