Mixed views as Mutharika lifts ban on maize exports
By Penelope Paliani-Kamanga
BLANTYRE – A move by Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika to lift the ban on maize exports has been received with mixed reactions, with some saying it is too little too late and others saying they can make money.
President Mutharika disclosed the lifting on the ban when he made a surprise visit to Admarc, a grain marketing company last week.
“We banned the exportation of maize because we didn’t want to repeat the past mistakes whereby maize was being sold to Kenya, a development which saw famine hitting Malawians hard,” he said.
But Farmers Union of Malawi president Alfred Kapichira Banda, reacting to the lifting of the ban, stated that this would not be of much benefit to the farmers themselves.
He said the lifting of the ban would not benefit farmers as such but middlemen and some merchants who kept more maize in their warehouses.
Agreeing to the FUM president’s sentiments, Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya said the lifting of the ban would only benefit intermediate buyers as most farmers had already sold their commodities at a giveaway price.
“At the time of plenty when you open up exports, the farmer can negotiate a higher price if they know the middle buyer will benefit. But what has happened now is that the farmer sold the commodity at a very cheap price. The supply was too much that it cut the prices and the farmers sold all maize. Now it is input season and the farmer does not have money which is bad for the country,” he said.
Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry also recently questioned government’s export limitations, saying it reduced the market for farmers who had the potential to export and defeated the whole purpose of regional integration.
Renowned economist Henry Kachaje said in his blog that the export ban helped to push prices of food down and largely influenced the drop in the inflation rate to single digits – a thing that reflects well on the government’s good economic management.
But on the other hand, farmers have once again been duped. They worked so hard to produce their maize only to find no lucrative markets to sell their produce.
“The traders are the winners. With the help of the president (the export ban), they succeeded to buy maize at rock bottom prices. Now with the help of the president, they will now make a killing as they find an export market for the maize,” he said.
However commercial farmer, John Khwezule, said he was impressed with the lifting of the ban saying now he will be able to export and earn money from the maize he piled up in his warehouse.
“I vowed not to sell it at a low price. So I just kept it. But I know for most farmers it is too late because they have already sold their maize,” he said.
Chikosa Thengo, a middleman who buys maize from farmers, was also smiles saying now he can make money.
“You know when I sell the maize outside the country I earn foreign currency which will be beneficial to both me and the country so it was about time the president lifted the ban,” he said.