Agro-dealers in the Central and Northern regions have formed a cooperative to pull their resources together to import farm inputs in bulk to reduce costs.
The development follows the formation of the Hub Agri Suppliers Cooperative (Hacoop) Society Limited, whose new leadership was ushered in on Tuesday in Lilongwe at its inaugural elective annual general meeting.
Hacoop president Robert Gomonda said that they feel the pain experienced by farmers who buy expensive inputs because agro-dealers buy the same at a higher price from local suppliers.
He said: “The challenge has been lack of capital. We were unable to procure and import fertiliser and other inputs from external suppliers.
“But through the cooperative, we have pulled our resources together and we also have secured a financier to top up our capital.”
Gomonda said the cooperative will provide a competitive advantage because they are represented nationwide, with networks that are vibrant in distribution and selling of agricultural inputs.
On the other hand, National Agro-dealers Association of Malawi president Edgar Lutepo said they are concerned with the rising prices of inputs; hence, they want to support government in ensuring fair agro-dealer business through fair prices.
On his part, African Institute for Corporate Citizenship (Aicc) acting head of programmes Leonard Chimwaza, whose organisation facilitated the formation of the cooperative, said they have a project called Agro-dealer Accelerate Initiative to promote timely and easy access to inputs.
He said farmers have at times been buying inputs which have not been of desired quality and standards from agro-dealers, observing that the cooperative will also ensure elimination of such concerns to foster competition.
Currently, the country has 933 cooperative societies out of which 459 are in agri-business.
Malawi is an agri-based economy, with the agriculture sector contributing about 80 percent of foreign exchange earnings.