China-Africa, the largest Chinese investment firm in Malawi, says its $80 million (about K60 billion) textile project in Salima urgently needs government intervention to start production.
Speaking in an exclusive interview on Tuesday, Malawi Cotton Company (MCC) general manager Shi Jingran said they are ready to roll out textile production in Salima, but electricity supply remains a challenge.
He said machinery installation on one of the five lines of production requiring 800 kilowatts (Kw) of power is almost complete and ready to start production end August, but Escom says it is looking for solutions to the problem of transformer.
Shi said: “The $25million [about K19 billion]
machinery will require 3100Kw for the five production lines producing 30 to 40 metric tonnes of yarn, employing 1 000 personnel working three shifts daily and earning Malawi about $36 million [about K27 billion] in forex yearly.
“We urge government to speedily introduce ‘zoning’ system of cotton production whereby companies will be given zones to invest inputs and buy from, rather than indiscriminate buying which promotes side-buying at the expense of investing in farmers.
He said zoning will enhance cotton production from the less than 10 000 metric tonnes of seed cotton (2018/2019) to satisfy the China-Africa Textile Company’s capacity which stands at 40 000 metric a year.
Ministry of Agriculture Irrigation and Water Development Principal Secretary Grey Nyandule Phiri said low cotton production is the challenge Malawi is facing, not necessarily zoning.
“China-Africa Textile should engage Cotton Council and other stakeholders with suggestions on how to enhance cotton production of which zoning maybe one solution. This is a collective responsibility to enhance production to meet the demand,” he said. Escom public relations manager Innocent Chitosi asked to be given more time to respond as he was engaged in meetings.