Malawi's Ministry of Industry and Trade announced Wednesday the suspension of all exportation of maize and maize products, effective immediately. The government of Malawi has also nullified all licenses enabling grain traders to export the commodity. The move follows an estimate by the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee that 10 out of 28 districts in the country are at risk of maize shortage between December 2011 and February 2012.

The ban came as a surprise to some traders, as the government had been selling maize to other countries until recently. The Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc), the government corporation that controls the sale of the grain, also recently raised the price of maize from from $12 to $18 per 50 kilogramme bag, an increase of 50%. According to an the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, the price increase is intended to protect the nation's poor from exploitation by market traders.

The Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture is planning a nationwide tour to assess the availability of maize in the country's silos and Admarc depots.

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