Government hides the truth

If you go to one demonstration and then go home, that's something, but the people in power can live with that. What they can't live with is sustained pressure that keeps building, organisations that keep doing things, people that keep learning lessons from the last time and doing it better the next time.
Noam Chomsky

Power is a drug on which the politicians are hooked. They buy it from the voters, using the voters' own money.
Peter Newman


The Mhlako Triumvirate

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Maize surplus - what maize surplus? NSO hides the truth from Malawi

For some years now the buzz has been that Malawi, thanks to a very expensive and generous fertiliser subsidy, has produced massive surpluses of maize. On this basis thousands of tonnes were exported to Zimbabawe on some sort of 'sweetheart' deal. At the same time the price of maize to consumers rose to K70, indicating a shortage of the commodity. And our President became the unquestionable hero of the World. What was the truth? The truth is in a Government report, The National Census of Agriculture and Livestock (NACAL) 2008-7. It should have been on the National Statistics Office (NSO) website at  but it was not! Fortunately I found the full URL That was really strange.. A search in the data_on_line section should have led me to the report. Malawi's economic backbone is agriculture.It came as a surprise to find on re-investigation that the whole data_on_line section now returns a 403 Forbidden message!. It had been removed, I guess, to hide the truth that the report revealed - there was no maize surplus.  An even bigger lie was told about the cassava crop.So, to hide the truth, the NSO are forbidding anyone to access the public data in direct contravention of the Constitution which calls for open and transparent Government! You can now only go where they direct you by way of links in the siedebar. There is no link to Agriculture.
Based on this lie our President is  hailed as a Saviour (Ngwazi), lauded around the world. Heaped with honours.
Was he deliberately distorting the truth or were his civil servants lying to him? I would prefer to think the latter.

If you want to learn the truth and do not want to download the pdf file from the link or if the NSO 'pulls' the report in its entirety, I have made it available for you to read at . You can go to the website and search for The National Census of Agriculture and Livestock (NACAL) 2006-7 or click on this link
If your internet connection is too slow just let me know by emailing me at and I will send it to you by email.
Market prices - more reliable than government 'estimates' - for the 2009-10 season clearly show that there was a surplus in the last harvest. Consumers are paying K30 per kilo - a 57% drop on las year's price. Maize is in plentiful supply during this, the traditionally lean period. The National Strategic Food Reserve Agency (NSFRA) plans to sell off its ageing maize stocks at K22 per kilo to make room for fresh stocks from the crop that is now looking good in the field.
With the exception of Zimbabwe, all  countries in our region have maize surpluses. Even though grain prices are rising world-wide, Malawi will find it very difficult to sell its surplus because of the cost of  freight. This restricts the market to the region.
Zimbabwe's farming situation is gradually improving.  If Zimbabwe no longer needs our maize where will we sell our surpluses? For how long can we continue to support an unsaleable surplus?
Food security is desirable but unsaleable surpluses are expensive and unsustainable unless there are value-added industries to convert the basic grain into a profitable product.

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