Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi on Monday expressed displeasure at the fact that farmers in the northernmost province of Niassa are continuing to sell their surplus crops in Malawi and Tanzania, even while there are food shortages in other parts of Mozambique.
Addressing a rally in Malemia village in the Niassa district of Sanga, Nyusi said “Agricultural produce should not all be sold abroad, but should be marketed inside the country so that the abundance of this region of northern Mozambique can be felt nationally, particularly in the south of the country which may face a lack of rainfall”.
Niassa, he urged, should find ways of managing its production internally. He did not want to see a situation where “in moments of crisis, we re-import our own production”.
Nyusi also raised the matter at an extraordinary session of the Niassa provincial government, which told him that there are indeed large surpluses of maize in Niassa “but it has no market inside the province”. The farmers thus had little option but to sell the maize in Malawi and Tanzania.
However Nyusi recalled that, at the recent national conference on agricultural marketing, Niassa had promised that it would absorb 250,000 tonnes of maize – but so far there is no sign of this happening. “It’s clear that there is no control over marketing”, said the President.
The problem of Mozambican maize being sold in Malawi has been raised for decades. Occasionally administrative measures have been suggested, such as an outright ban on these exports. Not only would this be extremely unpopular among Niassa farmers, but it would be impossible to enforce, given the porous nature of the border with Malawi.
The fertile areas of Niassa are a long distance from the urban centres of central and southern Mozambique. These distances, and the poor state of Niassa roads, discourage Mozambican companies from buying maize in Niassa.
At his meeting with the provincial government, Nyusi also raised the complaints by members of the public against poor services provided in Niassa health units. He was told that measures were being taken to crack down against health staff who mistreated patients, and one example of this was the recent dismissal of a nurse working in mother and child health.
Among the other matters which Nyusi asked the provincial officials to explain was the scale of poaching in Niassa. The province contains the largest conservation area in the country, the Niassa National Reserve – but the elephant population in the reserve is being decimated by poachers, many of whom cross into the country from Tanzania.
Nyusi’s visit coincided with World Environment Day, and he declared “Niassa must preserve its fauna and flora, which are envied internationally”.