Malawi cracks down on food smugglers seeking more profit

Thu Apr 20, 2017 8:18am GMT

By Karen Sanje

LILONGWE (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Malawi has tightened its border controls to stop profiteers smuggling much-needed maize out of the country in search of higher prices.

Months of drought had left more than a third of the population reliant on food aid, and the government last month invoked the Special Crops Act, which bans the export of some crops.

The government deployed soldiers to seal its porous borders with Tanzania and Zambia, and impounded trucks that are smuggling out the staple crop in pursuit of more profit.

Malawi police have also been searching vehicles on roads that lead to the borders.       

    The size of the trucks stopped by the police suggests that large-scale traders may be involved.

    “Over a period of two days, we impounded 26 trucks loaded with white maize as they were heading to Chitipa (a district bordering Zambia)," said Enock Livasoni, a police spokesman in Karonga district, which borders Tanzania.

Police in Chitipa detained at least 17 similar trucks carrying white maize last month, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Severe floods in 2015, followed by major drought in 2016, left 6.7 Malawians out of a population of 17 million in need of food aid, according to U.N. agencies.   Continued...

Subsistence farmer Salome Banda stands beside bags of her maize stacked in a warehouse north of Lilongwe, Malawi February 2, 2016.   REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
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