Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Maize shortage looms as Malawi halts exports to boost grain reserves

Maize shortage looms as Malawi halts exports to boost grain reserves

By George Omondi and Rex Chikoko

Posted  Monday, January 2  2012 at  16:27

Malawi has suspended maize exports to build national reserves in the face of 
a looming shortage, marking a surprise twist for a country that has served 
as Africa’s model for attaining food security.
The move taken by the country’s ministry in charge of Commerce and Industry 
nullifies all export licences that allowed grain traders to ship maize out 
of the country, locking out one of Kenya’s source markets for cereals.

“Malawi Revenue Authority and all licence holders are requested to take heed 
of the suspension order,” reads the press release.

In the 2010/11 season, Malawi announced a bumper harvest of 3.2 million 
tonnes of maize against a national consumption of 2.4 million tonnes. This 
surplus came handy for South Sudan, Kenya and Zimbabwe, helping to plug a 
drought–induced shortage that persisted during most of 2011.

Lately, however, Malawi estimates that 10 of its 28 districts are at risk of 
maize shortage between last month and February.
In Kenya, where recent short season harvests can barely last up to the next 
long rains crop expected in August, the news comes as a setback to private 
millers who have been pushing for the renewal of duty free import window 
that expired on New Year’s eve.

Malawi, Zambia and South Africa are the important source of white maize that 
Kenya imports each year to manufacture flour and animal feed.

“Extending duty free facility will pile pressure on local farmers to release 
the recent harvests that they are currently hoarding in the hope of pushing 
up market prices,” says Diamond Lalji, the Cereals Millers Association 

Failure by farmers to release their November/December harvests have recently 
forced the National Cereals and Produce Board to raise its producer price to 
Sh3,000 per bag in what World Bank describes as among the highest in the 

This gesture has, however, failed to soften farmers’ stand with just a few 
trickling back to the NCPB depots since it made the offer in late October.

The hoarding has denied the consumer the benefit of low market prices that 
normally prevails at harvest time as flour prices remain at high between 
Sh108 and Sh112.

Being Comesa countries, maize from Malawi and Zambia attracted just 25 per 
cent duty compared to South Africa’s which is subject to EAC’s common 
external tariff of 50 per cent.

This means that with the lapse of duty free incentive, local importers would 
easily turn to Malawi or Zambia to boost national stock.

Seen as a model African state where state subsidy programme has helped 
farmers to increase acreage under maize through improved access to modern 
inputs, research and technology, the looming shortage is likely to send the 
region’s policy makers back to the drawing board.

Recently, Malawi’s secretary in the Department of Relief and Disaster 
Preparedness Jeffrey Kanyinji announced that the country has put aside 4,000 
tonnes that are expected to be distributed to about 200,000 Malawians that 
are, at the moment, affected by food shortage in the southern part of 

A government corporation that controls the sale of maize in Malawi, 
Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation, announced the increase of 
maize prices by 50 per cent from $12 (Sh1,040) to $18 (Sh1,530) for a 
50-kilogramme bag. This would be equivalent to Sh2,754 a 90-kilogramme bag 
in Kenya.

Malawi’s Agriculture deputy minister Kingsley Namakhwa said the review would 
save farmers from exploitation of parallel market traders.
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