News / Africa

Malawi Grapples With Food Shortages

Maize rationing has forced private traders like these women to increase their prices, Karonga, Malawi. (Tiwonge Kumwenda/VOA)
Maize rationing has forced private traders like these women to increase their prices, Karonga, Malawi. (Tiwonge Kumwenda/VOA)
Lameck Masina
Malawi’s government is trying to ease the impact of a food shortage by rationing the country's staple crop, maize. The move has sparked a steep increase in the price of maize on the parallel market.
The latest report by the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee indicates that nearly two million of Malawi’s 13 million people are facing hunger because of prolonged dry spells, flooding and low yields of maize.

The committee, which includes government departments, the United Nations, embassies and humanitarian agencies, says poor households from the worst-hit districts will face a food shortage until the next harvest season begins in April.

The situation is compounded by rationing recently put in place by government’s main grain marketer, the Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation, which is limiting maize sales to 10 kilograms per customer.

In his capacity as deputy minister of agriculture before he was given a new portfolio last weekend, Ulemu Chilapondwa said the move is meant to protect the poor from vendors who are selling the grain at an exorbitant price.

“If you can actually check person by person, you can find that very few people can manage more than 10 kilograms, but vendors can manage, so the aim of the government is to serve the poor.”

But the consumer rights body, Consumers Association of Malawi, says the rationing further aggravates hunger among average Malawians, in part because ADMARC makes people stand in long lines.

John Kapito, the group's executive director, says “We are saying that it becomes a bit difficult, because the families have to stay there for much longer time for them to get that 10 kilograms of maize. And when you consider the time they have wasted and the amount of maize they have collected there it does not make any sense.”

Mother of six, Christina Jere is a resident of Ndirande Township in the commercial capital Blantyre. 

"This is a big problem to us with big families, because the 10 kilograms lasts for two days and this is also impacting negatively of our day household chores, " Jere said. "We are spending time queuing for maize at the ADMARC depots, sometimes even returning home without buying just because of extraordinary long queues.”  

She also said that despite the rationing private traders have taken advantage of the maize shortage by selling the staple grain at double the prices sold in ADMARC depots.

Until last year, Malawi had registered several years of a maize surplus, following the introduction of a fertilizer subsidy program in 2005.

The country earned a reputation of being an African food producer after it sold about 40,000 metric tons of maize to Zimbabwe and donated 5,000 metric tons each to Lesotho and Swaziland.  But last week, media reports indicated nine people had died of hunger related illnesses in the central district of Dedza.

“I think there is something wrong which the government is doing because we know that somebody is keeping the maize," Kapito said. " The president can go to the rally and distributing 2,000 bags of maize, where is she is getting that maize?”

But Chilapondwa insists nothing is wrong, saying the country has enough maize to keep it going through the lean period.

You May Like

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Through Sports, Austria Tries to Give Migrants Traction

With 85,000 people expected to claim asylum in Austria this year, its government has made integration through joint physical activities a key objective More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Brocherd from: Chirwabrocherd
January 29, 2014 2:14 PM
Selling the maize outside while the people are dying because of hunger, the government is doing very very wrong you can not think about your own people?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs