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Pigeon pea exports: choking on corruption

Even a direct order from a government minister cannot overcome the self-interest of a political elite

Today’s front pages in Maputo. Photo credit: Faizal Chauque / Zitamar News

Good afternoon. This newsletter has for several months now reported on the struggle between traders who want to export pigeon peas grown in Mozambique to India, where they are a staple food in high demand, and an elite within ruling party Frelimo who want to monopolise and extract profit from the trade, allegedly with the help of Mozambican conglomerate Royal Group. At first, officials tried to impose quotas on exporters, despite the fact that India is currently allowing pigeon peas to be imported in unlimited amounts from Mozambique. When the government finally clarified that no quotas were necessary, a legal challenge to the exports was filed by a company whose registered administrator is alleged to be working in league with Royal Group.

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Until now, Royal Group has kept out of the public view, preferring (according to exporters who have had their exports blocked) to hide through subsidiaries who have been quietly exporting pigeon peas, in defiance of a court ban on exports. But now the company seems to have come out in public to try to stop the exports, and has secured a court order preventing certain companies — the same companies who have been fighting Royal Group’s claims — from exporting not only pigeon peas but also soya beans, sesame and peanuts (see below). According to legal experts cited by newspaper Savana, the court in question, a maritime court, does not have jurisdiction over exports.

What grounds Royal Group gave for preventing these exports can only be guessed at. But what it means is that, only one day after finance minister Max Tonela sent an instruction to Mozambique Customs to allow the free export of pigeon peas, his wishes have been frustrated by a court which, for one reason or another, is serving the selfish and corrupt interests of a small gang. Tonela’s intervention, we understand, came after President Filipe Nyusi asked his ministers to take action to free up exports.

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