By Blackson Mkupatira, MANA
Former Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Kondwani Nankhumwa Friday condemned traders profiting on poor farmers by purchasing produce at a cheaper price, saying they are the reason farmers are failing to develop in the country.
Speaking on Friday in the area of Traditional Authority (TA) Nthiramanja in Malanje during the inauguration of Blantyre Agriculture Development Division Field Days, he said farmers remain poor despite their efforts because traders take advantage of their poverty situation by setting unreasonable prices or manipulating commodity weighing scales.
“Just as you harvest you will notice some going around with plastic ware to exchange with maize. They want to buy our commodity at a cheaper price to maximize profit and in the end it is you who will suffer,” he said.
Nankhumwa disclosed that that was why government intends to open its Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC) depots as early as April this year to give farmers an opportunity to sell their produce at a recommended price and to ensure that government has enough in its silos for them to buy come lean period.
“We used to open our markets in August annually, but this time around we are opening next month (April) so that farmers have access to good markets when selling their produce,” the former Minister said.
He advised traditional leaders and community policing structures to be on the lookout and protect local farmers from unethical middlemen while advising farmers to sell their produce to ADMARC depots for maximum profits.
Member of Parliament for Mulanje South West Constituency, George Chaponda asked government to consider establishing factories to process farm produce so that farmers could profit.
He said previously, there were many food processing companies in the district that enabled farmers to be economically empowered as they sold their produce at a reasonable price.
“Before privatization, we had many factories buying farm produce like tomato to make sauce or sweet potatoes, to make potato flour, but now they are all gone, and farmers have been left without good markets,” Chaponda said.
The Parliamentarian for the area asked government to consider upgrading main roads in his area, saying a good road network is important in transporting fresh farm produce to and from markets.
Senior Chief Nthiramanja said cooperatives have proven to work in the area as they grant smallholder farmers authority to sell their produce in bulk at a reasonable price.
“We would like the ministry to facilitate establishment of cooperatives here so that we can sell our produce collectively at a good price,” he said.
In some parts of Mulanje and Phalombe, traders have already begun purchasing maize from local farmers for as low as K100 per kilogramme, Malawi News Agency (Mana) has learnt.