Former Member of Parliament RHYNO CHIPHIKO has been appointed Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) general manager (GM). He takes over from Felix Jumbe. In this interview with MOSES MICHAEL-PHIRI, the new Admarc GM speaks on his vision and the future of the organisation. Excerpts.
There have been skeptics over your qualifications to head Admarc, how would you address these concerns?
Academically, I possess a bachelor of social science [BSc] degree majoring in economics from University of Malawi and a master of business administration [MBA] from University of Witwatersrand [Wits] in South Africa. I also possess a track record of professional experience in management consulting in public reform management, financial management, general management, human resource management, institutional/organisational development and design, production and operations management. I am a target-driven professional who is on a single-minded mission to increase Admarc’s profitability, productivity and service to our people, especially smallholder farmers. I am a logical thinker who has successfully created strategic/business plans, developed policies, managed finances, analysed market trends, negotiated terms and close deals for big companies in the past. I am confident enough to work in the challenging and dynamic commodity market where all answers may not be known upfront.
For decades Admarc has been moving in doldrums. What is your vision for this once biggest statutory corporation?
My vision is to make Admarc a market leader in commodity trading, agro-processing, value addition and export-driven company in Malawi and the region. This is where we want to be with me at the helm. Malawians should be rest assured that they now have someone heading Admarc pursuing a sustainable future for their enterprise.
Admarc was once a top performer among many State enterprises. What are you going to do for it to claim the lost glory?
The new Admarc, under my watch, will commence buying produce from smallholder farmers earlier than it has been the case lately. At the same time, we will maintain high quality standards such as checking moisture content of the products to avoid afrotoxin and other adversaries. In addition, Admarc will endeavour to increase its market share by increasing the volume of purchases in line with local and international demand. We will revamp and maintain market infrastructure and implement a cashless digital payment platform so that farmers are paid on time, and avoid theft. We will create new value-addition and agro-processing companies for maize milling, edible oil production from Soya beans, groundnuts and sunflower, agri-feed production, certified seed production, fruit canning and bottling plant, and clinical cotton production.
How are you going to deal with private traders who have leverage on the sloppiness on the market?
Admarc will take advantage of its vast market network nationwide and be the first-point-of-contact for farmers. We will secure adequate funds at low-cost to start buying produce in good time. We will rebrand our products and make them available in shops all over the country and in the region. We will secure shops and warehouses through agents to sell our products on consignment in the exporting countries. We will open agro-dealing/farm inputs outlets in units markets for sell to smallholder farmers. We will pioneer the establishment of an export processing zone together with Ministry of Trade to coordinate exports and ensure that proceeds are brought back to the Malawi.
How are you going to circumvent the hurdle of late receipt of funds from Treasury to buy produce?
With the change of government fiscal calendar, which will commence in March next year, we expect to receive funding in good time for buying produce from smallholder farmers. The new Admarc will also proactively endeavour to secure low-cost loans from banks and other financiers outside the country. It will also look for reliable off-shore clients who will be willing to buy our commodities through advance payments, forward contracts and letters of credit. So, this time around, Admarc will not entirely rely on its shareholder for its working capital.
It is apparent that Admarc has been operating on life support. How can sustainability be achieved under the circumstances?
The new Admarc will, eventually, stand on its feet. As a limited liability company, our objective is to make profit and at the same time we are mandated to carry on social functions. I totally believe that as a commercially viable entity, Admarc will be better-placed to service the social marketing functions if its commercial arm makes sound profit. The entire thrust towards the restructuring of the organisation is to ensure that it carries its own weight, which can only be achieved by aggressively pursuing the commercial activities. It is most pleasing and gratifying that the leadership of this country is calling for a mindset change and increase in productivity across all sectors of our economy.
What is going to be your first task as you assume office?
It is to engage staff on a paradigm shift journey in order for them to think business and stop the government way of doing things. After the death of Malawi Development Corporation [MDC], Admarc is the only organisation that is realistically positioned to contribute to the economic development of this country. A vibrant Admarc will play an important role to maintain macro-economic targets such as price stability [inflation], foreign reserve acquisition through exports and cushioning of the exchange rate.