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Malawi: Government lifts ban on maize exports

01 March 2007, The Nation

BLANTYRE: Government has changed its tune on the maize export ban, saying it will now be issuing licences to private traders to export the commodity for a period of eight weeks up to the end of April this year.

A press release from the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Private Sector Development yesterday said the maize exports will enable the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) and the private sector to purchase the crop from smallholder farmers in the coming season.

“It will also improve the price of maize to the smallholder farmers,” says the statement.
The statement says government has made provisions to ensure the country has enough maize up to the harvest season in 2008.

“This decision follows an initial crop estimate by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security that indicates that the country will again this year have a bumper maize harvest estimated at around 3.1 million metric tonnes which would be more than the country’s annual maize requirement,” reads part of the press release.

Government has, therefore, invited traders to apply for export licences to be issued by the Industry, Trade and Private Sector Ministry in liaison with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.

The Agriculture Ministry will verify that the applicants have maize stocks in their warehouses before issuing the licences.

“It will be an offence to export maize without a licence,” reads the release.

In an interview yesterday, Principal Secretary for Agriculture Patrick Kabambe said government has put in place checks in the borders to stop abuse.

“We will check if indeed the exporters have an order from buyers and whether indeed they have enough maize in their stock warranting export,” he said.

On the change of heart by government, he said government was now sure of the crop estimates which exceed the required amount for consumption by a million tonnes.

Kabambe said the country requires 2.1 million metric tonnes of maize but this year the harvest is estimated at 3.1 million tonnes.

He said the money realised from sales of last year’s surplus and this year’s would prepare the farmers for the next growing season.

When contacted for his comment, Malawi Confederation for Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) president Harrison Kalua said he was excited with the news.

“It shows government can listen to our advice as the private sector. From last year, people had maize in their stocks but with no markets because there is plenty maize on the local market while neighbouring countries like Zimbabwe and Mozambique have insufficient maize,” he said.
But Kalua sent a warning to government not to be carried away and sell maize in silos to avoid shortages.

He also appealed to government to scale up the building of extra silos at district level to increase the country’s capacity to store maize.

Last month at a high level government/private sector consultative conference held in Blantyre that aimed at promoting dialogue between government and the private sector, President Bingu wa Mutharika rebuffed a proposal by business captains for government to allow export of maize at higher prices.

His response was that accepting the proposal would only create a crisis similar to the one the country faced in 2000 when government reportedly, under donor influence, sold its surplus maize to other countries.

He then said the country should wait for two to four years before exporting maize.

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