Elitist Land and Agriculture Policies and the Food Problem in Malawi
The author argues that conversion of over 1 million hectares of customary land to leasehold land tenure merely endowed the elite with excessive landholdings they did not fully utilise for tobacco production because it exceeded the requirement for production of the quota of tobacco output allocated to Malawi. However, as a result of population growth food demands exceeded the carrying capacity of household land whose quality also diminished resulting in steep decline in food productivity. The author also argues that government policy of suppressing producer prices combined with a policy of preventing smallholder farmers from growing the lucrative tobacco crop reduced incomes of the poor and deprived the rural sector the means to adopt high productivity technologies. The author also argue that estates would have used their excess land to produce more maize but the low producer prices paid by ADMARC, the grain marketing board, acted as a disincentive. Land rents were also pegged far below market levels that farmer held on to large amounts of idle land with a speculative motive. The author also observes that Malawi spends more on maize imports than on petroleum imports, and describes food problem as a rupturing time bomb that has been ticking since the early 1980’s.
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