The Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) on Wednesday last week detained a truck carrying sugar for export to the European Union before releasing it on Saturday as the government continues controlling exports of sugar following the shortage of the commodity that hit the country last month.
Both MRA and Illovo Sugar have confirmed the development.
MRA publicist Steve Kapoloma said the temporary detention was mainly for verification purposes while Illovo Public Relations Officer Ireen Phalula said the detention was just for bureaucratic reasons as what the MRA is trying to control are illegal exports of sugar.
Phalula said the truck was part of Illovo's normal exports exercise, transporting sugar to the port for export in order to help gain foreign currency for Malawi.
"I do not have the figure but would like to emphasise that this truck was carrying sugar to the port for export as part of a normal exercise carried out every single day of the sugar milling season. You do realise that sugar is one of the country's forex earner as the country exports to the EU, USA and the regional market, so the truck was part of that normal export exercise," said Phalula.
Minister of Industry and Trade John Bande said the ministry is monitoring closely on the sugar exports to avoid repetition of sugar scarcity in the country.
He said the Illovo truck was detained as the goods and documentation had to be verified by MRA.
"MRA wanted to verify the export documentation and we also wanted to verify the goods. We do not want sugar packed in one kilogramme packets leaving the country. But in this case, it was 50 kilogramme packages and we released them," said Bande.
He said ministry officials are currently on the ground to access availability of sugar in retail shops countrywide.
"If we find that the market is not satisfied, we have no option but to ban sugar exports until we are certain of sugar availability on the local market," he said.
Meanwhile, Phalula said both the Nchalo and Dwangwa factories are operating at full capacity and have adequate stocks in warehouses at Nchalo and Dwangwa and other distribution centres across the country.