The Parliamentary Cluster on Agriculture and Food Security and Natural Resources has blocked the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) from participating in the maize procurement exercise during the 2021/2022 fiscal year.
In the 2021/2022 budget estimates, government had put 12 billion Kwacha to be shared between ADMARC and NFRA.
Appearing before the committee, officials from Ministry of Agriculture said they decided to split the money a decision which saw ADMARC being given K4 billion while NRFA getting a lion’s share of billion Kwacha.
But the Cluster said, all the K12 billion should be channeled to ADMARC and that NRFA should stop buying maize to concentrate on storage of the grain per its statutory obligation.
According to co-chairperson Sammer Suleman, disbursing K4 billion only to ADMARC would result into ADMARC procuring maize from few small-scale farmers in the country.
“You know that NFRA`s mandate is not to buy maize from the farmers, their mandate is storage reserve that’s why they are called NFRA and the mandate for ADMARC is to buy the maize from the local farmers.
Our argument was that why can`t we take this money give it to ADMARC instead of NFRA because what happens is that they buy from their designated warehouses meaning that a local farmer will find it hard to bring his 10 kilograms of maize all the way to Blantyre or to Lilongwe for NRFA to buy, it doesn’t make any sense,” stressed Suleman.
In her reaction, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Erica Maganga said her Ministry only followed the decision as highlighted in the 2021/2022 budget estimates.
“In the Minister of Finance`s statement during the budget presentation it was indicated that the Minister of Finance has allocated K12 billion to the Ministry of Agriculture for maize, Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR).
“The sentiments by the Committee that the money should be allocated to ADMARC so that ADMARC delivers the maize to the SGR so as a Ministry we have taken note of that,” said Maganga.
Finance Minister Felix Mlusu told the National Assembly that in the 2021/2022 fiscal budget, K12 billion has been allocated for maize purchases by the National Food Reserve Agency and ADMARC to restock the Strategic Grain Reserves saying that the resources are part of the total allocation to the agriculture sector and are slightly higher compared to last year’s allocation.
Mlusu said the allocation is specifically for restocking the SGR and more purchases other than this, ADMARC will be supported to borrow from commercial banks and as Government has already approved the use of last year’s maize sale proceeds to purchase the new maize.
The state produce trader earlier told the Cluster that it is in need of K80 billion for procurement of various yields across the country.