The Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) has said output of the agriculture sector will hit 7.1 percent in 2017 and projects a rebound of 6.6 percent in 2018.
However, industry players say the projections do not reflect what is on the ground.
For the past two years, Malawi’s agricultural sector continued to register subdued growth, registering a meagre one percent and 0.1 percent in 2015 and 2016, respectively according to central bank figures.
In its third quarter Financial and Economic Report, RBM is projecting growth in the sector because of an estimated increase in the production of crops such as maize and rice following favourable weather patterns.
In an interview, agricultural analyst Tamani Nkhono-Mvula said although last year’s performance in the sector was much better than the previous five years, the 7.1 projection is too ambitious.
“We are coming from two bad years where output for the sector has been very low. But last year, the weather was quite well and production improved.
“But coming to 2018, the projections may be too optimistic because we currently have the challenge of fall army worms and we are not sure how much damage the worms have caused. My view is that a four percent growth is more reasonable,” he said.
Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) president Alfred Kapichira-Banda said until there is an improvement in policies that govern the agricultural sector, it will continue to deteriorate.
He said: “Although the weather was relatively better last year, it should be noted that growth in the sector is not about weather only. There are several issues that comprise this. A lot has happened in the sector and we are surprised where the government is taking such projections.”
Kapichira-Banda called on government and other stakeholders in the agricultural sector to ensure that agriculture is diversified and promoted, saying agriculture has ceased making significant contribution towards poverty reduction or economic growth.
“Farmers are still struggling to access capital for various agriculture endeavours because our banks are hesitant to lend farmers other than this we are relying on the traditional farming methods yet things around the world are advancing. With this, we cannot progress,” he said.
The agricultural sector contributes about 30 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP) but in recent years the contribution has dropped to about 26 percent.
But despite this, the sector remains the country’s economic backbone, supporting about 85 percent of the population.