Committee wants additional 50 000MT in hunger response

Committee wants additional 50 000MT in hunger response

Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture chairperson Sameer Suleman has asked government to release an additional 50 000 metric tonnes (MT) of maize from Strategic Grain Reserves (SGR) for distribution as part of the food insecurity response.

The call comes after Minister of Agriculture Sam Kawale last week announced that government will release 12 000MT of maize to Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) to enable people to buy maize as a response to the food insecurity.

Maize stock in an Admarc warehouse in this file photo

Of the 12 000MT, 10 000MT will go to the Southern Region where people and agricultural activities were affected by Cyclone Freddy, with the remaining 2000MT to be distributed equally between the Northern and Central regions.

In an interview yesterday, Suleman said the 12 000MT that government is planning to release is not enough as many people are in dire need.

“We want the maize under SGR to be released and distributed to families facing hunger. These are people who cannot afford to buy maize because they do not have the money,” he said.

The Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Mvac) established 4.4 million people will not be able to meet their annual food requirements for the 2023/24 consumption period. The figure represents about 22 percent of the Malawi projected total population of 19.6 million.

Based on the number of people that are estimated to be food insecure, releasing the 12 000MT would mean each person accessing 2.72 kilogramme (kg).

Suleman also called on government to come up with the price of maize to be sold by Admarc. However, he said the price should not exceed K500 per kg.

In a separate interview, Grain Traders Association of Malawi president Grace Mijiga Mhango concurred with Suleman that 12 000MT is not enough to address the hunger situation but said releasing more maize prior to the lean period without restocking the grain reserves is suicidal.

She called on government to tread carefully on its hunger response, saying releasing huge tonnage of maize prior to the lean period will be disastrous if restocking measures are not put in place.

“The tonnage [12 000MT] is too small. It cannot cover much but the challenge is we are not in the lean season. So we need to ration because it is too early. The lean period starts in October,” said Mhango.

She urged members of Parliament to push for allocation of more money to buy maize to restock the grain reserves.

Government allocated K12 billion for maize purchases in the 2023/24 National Budget. The K12 billion was estimated to procure about 22 000MT at the price of K550 per kg.

Mhango stressed that government needs to move with speed on maize imports as the country does not have enough maize. She said private traders can help bring in more maize if government supports the traders with forex.

The private traders have stocked about 100 000MT, but a big tonnage will go towards animal feed.

“In a normal season the maize that gets traded ranges between 400 000 metric tonnes to 450 000 metric tonnes. So there is a huge deficit.

“If the private sector can be supported with forex, we can manage to increase current tonnage to 200 000 metric tonnes,” said Mhango.

Kawale and Agriculture PS Dickxie Kampani did not pick up their phones when called for comment yesterday. They also did not respond to a questionnaire sent to them.

But Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) spokesperson Chipiliro Khamula said Dodma has planned to start providing assistance under the Mvac Humanitarian Response Plan in October, as per Mvac’s the recommendation.

Dodma is targeting 4.4 million people who will be food insecure across the country.

National Food Reserve Agency is targeting to stock 100 500 metric tonnes of maize for the country to be able to handle Humanitarian and Emergency Relief programs through Dodma, as well as price stabilisation requirements through Admarc.

NFRA already had about 57 500 MT of maize before government allocated K12 billion for maize purchases. NFRA estimated that it will procure 22 000MT of maize using K12billion and procure another 21 000 metric tonnes using $10million from the World Bank.

The post Committee wants additional 50 000MT in hunger response appeared first on The Nation Online.