Maputo — The government has revived and restructured the Mozambique Grain Institute (ICM), giving it the power to coordinate agricultural marketing, the Minister of Industry and Trade, Max Tonela, told the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Wednesday.
Answering questions from deputies on agricultural marketing, he said that the other key attributes of the ICM were to maintain reserves for food security purposes, and to operate as a buyer of last resort.
Tonela said the ICM has signed 51 memorandums of understanding with other stakeholders in the agricultural marketing chain in order to ensure a market for agricultural surpluses, and to prioritise national production in supplying food processing industries. The agreements signed this year envisage the marketing of almost 593,000 tonnes of crops, particularly maize, beans and soya.
Nonetheless, the detailed figures given by Tonela indicate that a great deal of this year's harvests must still be in the hands of farmers. The target for marketing all food crops (grains, vegetables, root crops, pulses and oilseeds) in 2017 is 16.75 million tonnes, but marketing in the first nine months of the year fell just short of nine million tonnes.
2.37 million tonnes of grain (mostly maize) was marketed. Although this was a 10 per cent increase on the figure for 2016, it was only 69 per cent of the target of 3.42 million tonnes. Tonela believed this is because many producers are holding back much of their maize, waiting for prices to rise.
It was a similar picture with root crops. Just over 2.9 million tonnes was marketed in the first nine months of the year - a seven per cent increase on 2016, but only 29 per cent of the target figure.
But 813,000 tonnes of beans were marketed, which was 95 per cent of the target of 854,000 tonnes. Since there are still three months to go before the end of the year, the target will almost certainly be surpassed.
Tonela noted particular problems with the marketing of pigeon peas, because of reduced demand from the main export market, which is India. The Indian government slapped restrictions on the import of pigeon peas, in order to protect Indian producers.
However, before the introduction of the restrictions, the Mozambican and Indian governments had signed a memorandum of understanding, giving Mozambique a large quota of pigeon pea exports to India. Tonela said the government sent a delegation to India to discuss the quota and this allowed the resumption of purchases of pigeon peas from Mozambican farmers at a higher producer price.
The government had found that companies not registered in Mozambique were taking advantage of the Mozambican pigeon pea quota. To deal with this, all Mozambican pigeon pea exports must now carry a certificate of origin issued by the ICM, and the Mozambican quota is being managed centrally in coordination with the Indian government.
The marketing of vegetables was an unqualified success. In the first nine months of 2017, producers sold slightly more than two million tonnes of vegetables, which was 43 per cent more than the target.
Tonela said a major contribution had been made by large supermarkets, hotels and restaurants in buying up surplus vegetables, and this guaranteed market had encouraged small producers in the green belts around Mozambican cities to step up their production.
Tonela announced that before the end of the year the government will issue regulations on the sale, import and export of agricultural products that will remove barriers which still exist in marketing, and induce increases in agricultural production and productivity.