- Title: MALAWI: Malawi drops maize export ban after good harvest
- Date: 9th March 2007
- Summary: (AD1) BLANTYRE, MALAWI (MARCH 06, 2007) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF MAIZE CROP MAIZE COB
- Embargoed: 24th March 2007 12:00
- Location: Malawi
- Country: Malawi
- Topics: Environment / Natural World,Industry
- Reuters ID: LVA40TCQYEKXD6F0Z5RVB8HOZ1JV
- Story Text: Malawi expects its biggest harvest of maize in 10 years. As a result, the government has lifted an export ban it had placed in order to protect reserves. Poor rains and poor agricultural management in 2005 destroyed that year's harvest causing widespread hunger. Landlocked Malawi is expected to produce 3.1 million tonnes of maize this year, prompting the government to lift an export ban. Severe drought, mismanagement of grain reserves, and the high cost of farm inputs killed off crops in 2005, causing widespread hunger in the southern African country.
President Bingu wa Mutharika banned maize exports last year until estimates showed the country had enough maize. The government has now begun issuing export licenses to traders for the next eight weeks.
"We are happy that they have lifted the ban, but looking at the tonnage, they have lifted about 80,000 and duration they gave us is eight weeks and that is of concern to us. But with time we are still talking with the government. We know we might come up with a better solution," said Geoffrey Sayalunda, the Director of Grain Traders and Producers.
The decision comes following an initial crop estimate that indicates that the country will have a surplus of one million tonnes. Malawi's annual requirement is 2.1 million tonnes. A World Bank-approved fertilizer subsidy scheme helped the country capitalise on good rains.
But some critics warn that Malawi is not yet in the clear.
"I would not be surprised to learn that the IMF has had a hand in this. However, I would also say that one must learn from the past history to determine where one is going in the future. So, unless we are shown in the most transparent manner the logistics and mechanisms that the government has in place to ensure future supply of maize, unless we see that in clear, irrefutable and equivocal terms, I would say we are walking on a blade of a knife," Rafik Hajat, Executive Director for the Institute for Policy Interaction.
Traders around the country have mixed reactions about the ban being lifted.
"In the past it was difficult because we had no maize. But this time it is plenty. Let it be exported as Bingu (Malawi president) has directed," said Siteliya Jamiteni who sells maize in a local market.
"The maize should not be exported. Let it remain here. If there is plenty, it is ours as Malawians. We should keep it and use it the way we want. Exporting is not a solution," added Maliko Basikolo, another maize seller.
Despite expectations of far better food security in 2006/7, local U.N. agencies estimate that one million Malawians are still in need of food aid. However, that is far lower than over 5 million people in the 2005 season.
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