The Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) has raised serious concerns about the current maize situation in Malawi, warning that it is a disaster-in-waiting that could have fatal consequences if not addressed promptly. The organization expressed worry that the crisis would disproportionately affect vulnerable and marginalized citizens, both in urban and rural areas, potentially leading to unnecessary loss of lives.
CDEDI highlighted that despite Parliament’s approval of MK12 billion for maize procurement and the timely adjustment of the government financial year to facilitate the purchase, the country’s maize stocks would only last for about two months if distributed nationwide.
The Centre criticized the selective and unsustainable approach adopted by the government, particularly its decision to supply maize only to districts affected by Tropical Cyclone Freddy. CDEDI stressed that such an approach neglects other areas experiencing severe hunger and is unlikely to provide a long-term solution.
Key concerns raised by CDEDI include:
- Affordability: The minimum price of maize set at MK500 per kilogram (MK25,000 per 50kg bag) is unaffordable for many Malawians, especially those who lost their livelihoods due to the cyclone and the jobless population. Additionally, the majority of citizens earning the MK50,000 minimum wage cannot afford maize at this price.
- Insensitivity: Parliament’s resolution to release National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) maize for sale without considering the vulnerable and food-insecure households has been deemed insensitive. The widely varying maize prices in different regions further exacerbate the situation.
In light of the limited maize availability, CDEDI urged the government to release the maize to all parts of the country while reducing the minimum price by half. Additionally, the organization called for the implementation of a social protection mechanism to provide free food to the ultra-poor.
To tackle the crisis effectively, CDEDI proposed the following demands:
- Tabling of the Maize Bill: CDEDI called on the Leader of the Opposition to facilitate the tabling of the maize bill in Parliament.
- Immediate Maize Release: The government was urged to immediately release NFRA maize to all Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation selling points.
CDEDI provided Parliament with a seven-day ultimatum to deliberate and pass the maize bill. Failure to do so would lead the organization to stage a protest at the Parliament Building in Lilongwe, starting from Monday, August 7, 2023, until the bill is passed, maize is made available to all areas, and its price is reduced.
The situation requires urgent attention and collaborative efforts from all stakeholders to prevent a humanitarian crisis and ensure food security for all Malawians.