The Center for Democracy and Economic Initiative (CDEDI) has petitioned Parliament to deliberate and pass an emergency maize bill.
Speaking after delivering the petition on Wednesday, CDEDI Executive Director Silvester Namiwa stated that Parliament should suspend relevant standing orders to deliberate and pass an emergency maize bill.
“Through this bill, the government should engage Illovo and Salima sugar companies, and other large-scale commercial farmers to grow maize through irrigation,”adding that there should also be an initiative to tap the underground water to enable prison facilities to engage in irrigation farming.
Likewise, he said, those in the lakeshore districts should be provided solar pumps or canals to grow maize.
Given that most Malawians are yet to adopt alternatives to maize, it is imperative to increase production of the staple food, he said.
Namiwa said the demand follows revelations that the current maize situation in the country is a fatal disaster-in-waiting.”The country has maize that will only last two months, if it were to be supplied nationwide.”
According to him, with 91 percent of employable Malawians being jobless, coupled with the effects of cyclone Freddy, and drought in the case of Karonga, given that the Tonse Alliance administration set the minimum price of maize at MK500 a kilogramme, translating to MK25,000 per 50-kilogramme bag, millions cannot afford the staple food.
At the prevailing MK50,000 minimum wage, the majority of Malawians can also not afford to buy the maize.
This is so bearing in mind that while the staple food is selling at about MK35,000 per 50kg bag in the Central Region, in some parts of the Southern Region, the same bag is fetching between MK50,000 and MK55,000, he said.
Namiwa observed that the government has no choice but to release the maize to all the parts of the country and at the same time reduce the minimum price by half.
Similarly, he said, a social protection mechanism should be put in place to ensure that the ultra-poor receive free food.
Instead of pressing the panic button or softening regulations on maize imports, CDEDI is imploring the House to transact the maize bill saying rationing maize will only worsen the situation, while importation is not an option given the acute shortage of forex in the country.
Namiwa through his organization however implored the Leader of the Opposition, Kondwani Nankhumwa to facilitate tabling of the maize Bill.
Receiving the petition, Parliamentary Chairperson for Agriculture Committee, Sameer Suleman said the petition has a very strong message which needs to be supported.
“Malawians are now starving due to natural challenges. There is a shortage of maize across the country,” he said.
Suleman said prices of maize have gone up such that the majority of Malawians cannot afford it.