This year’s output for the country’s cash crops has increased, a development experts say stands to boost household incomes and spur employment.
Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development figures for the second round of crop production estimates of the 14 cash crops reviewed show that wheat (2.06 percent), pigeon peas (7.48 percent) and coffee (3.74 percent) have registered production declines compared to the 2017/18 third round crop estimates.
The estimates put output for wheat, pigeon peas and coffee at 714 metric tonnes (MT), 402 286 MT and 10 667 MT, respectively.
On the other hand, rice, cassava, sweet potato, groundnuts, beans, soya beans, millet, pulses, sorghum, millet, potatoes and cotton have registered production increases.
Agricultural expert Tamani Nkhono Mvula, who is also former national director of Civil Society Agriculture Network (CisaNet) said while the increased cash crop production could indicate an increase in household income, the benefit of which will depend on market response.
He said in most cases, increased output per farm household in Malawi has usually been accompanied by low quality products, resulting in low prices on the market.
Said Nkhono-Mvula: “If the increase is spread over an increasing number of household producing these cash crops as compared to last year, this may mean that household margins are not increasing at all, thereby not much to talk about.”
But he said increased output is good news for the country.
Two weeks ago, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development released farm-gate minimum prices for crops, with maize pegged at K150 per kilogramme (kg), sorghum at K200 per kg, pigeon peas at K330 per kg, cotton (grade B) at K300 per kg and dried and wet cassava at K220 per kg and K60 per kg, respectively.
The price of mixed beans is pegged at K340 per kg, pure beans at K420 per kg, wheat at K350 per kg, finger millet at K300 per kg and pearl millet is at K200/kg.
Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) president Alfred Kapichira Banda, in an earlier interview, said despite the prices appearing tempting for farmers who would like to sell their produce, government must ensure that the farmers are not exploited.
Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Principal Secretary Grey Nyandule Phiri said as a control measure, the ministry attaches conditions to permits issued to traders to buy farm produce at the recommended prices.