Maize debate hots up in Parliament

Maize debate hots up in Parliament

Minister of Agriculture Sam Kawale yesterday assured Parliament that Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) markets will have maize by Thursday in a bid to stabilise the staple grain’s prices.

Delivering a ministerial statement on the status of the Strategic Grain Reserves (SGR), the minister told Parliament that 12 000 metric tonnes (MT) of maize is ready for distribution by next Thursday.

Women wait for their turn during a previous maize shortage experience

Kawale indicated that the Southern Region, which was hit by Cyclone Freddy that washed away crop fields, will get 10 000MT while the Centre and North will have 1 000MT each.

But the breakdown of the allocations stirred dissatisfaction among members of Parliament (MPs) from the Central and Northern regions, who queried why the Southern Region should get a lion’s share when hunger has not spared any corner of the country.

Rumphi East MP Kamlepo Kalua asked the minister to justify the decision to give the South 10 000MT while the other regions will receive 1 000MT each.

“This is not fair because cries of hunger are all over the country and we can’t be giving priority to others while we let others suffer. We have people suffering in our constituencies as well,” he said.

Kawale: Don’t worry

But as the debate heated up, Leader of the House Richard Chimwendo Banda rose to make clarify that the Southern Region received consideration due to the situation the people are in following the impact of Cyclone Freddy which hit many parts of the region close to harvest time.

He said: “Let’s understand the reasoning behind this, otherwise we are sending the wrong message out there. The Southern Region suffered devastating Cyclone Freddy towards harvesting and many people literally harvested nothing.

“Salima in the Central Region and Karonga in the Northern Region have also been considered because they had their own share of misfortune in the last rainy season. So, it’s a matter of starting with those areas where the situation is critical.”

Kawale also assured the House that the matrix he presented was for the first phase of maize distribution, adding that areas not included will be considered in subsequent phases.

“I know MPs have been submitting proposed selling points in their areas, and we have kept a record of them to consider when revising the matrix for the next phase. So, don’t worry,” he said.

Some MPs complained that putting them in the subsequent phases would negatively impact on areas which are hard-to-reach during the rainy season.

Dedza North legislator Savel Kafwafwa, whose constituency is not included in the first phase, said once rains start, Mayani is impassable and transporters shun it.

“Hon. minister I wish to let you know that you have not indicated when the subsequent phases will be carried out, but in case they come when the rains have started, know that you have denied people of Mayani and surrounding villages in my constituency the right to food,” he said.

Kawale, who looked composed throughout the heated debate, said all concerns were noted and further told the MPs that the public will be notified about selling prices of maize in the selected selling points. He said where there are no structures, the ministry will use mobile markets.

But the minister urged the MPs to mobilise their constituents to form committees to work with Admarc and Ministry of Agriculture officials to ensure smooth operations regarding the maize.

Yesterday, Kawale was bombarded with questions and points of clarification, a departure from MPs’ conduct last week when he was booed by the opposition for presenting a statement which they said did not respond to issues of hunger as raised by them.

Last week, the minister told the House that the country has 68 420MT of maize, of which 52 420MT belong to National Food Reserve Agency and 15 960MT for Admarc.

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