The 19-member Common Market for East and Central Africa (Comesa) has said Malawi continues to register poor trade performance with the trade bloc largely due to lack of crop diversification.
Comesa secretary general Sindiso Ngwenya said in an interview on Tuesday in Blantyre that Malawi’s overreliance on tea and tobacco as main export commodities has not only affected the country’s trade performance, but also the exchange rate.
His pronouncements come in the wake of continued worsening trade balance with the rest of the world.
Ngwenya spoke on the sidelines of official handover of the Malawi Enterprise Productivity Enhancement Project (Mepe) equipment to the Malawi Council for the Handicapped (Macoha) and Blantyre and Lilongwe textile and tailoring cooperative society limited.
Data from the National Statistical Office (NSO) indicate that as of September 2016, Malawi exported goods worth K10.8 billion to Comesa and imported K97.6 billion worth of products, creating a negative trade balance of K86.8 billion.
Ngwenya said the challenge Malawi has faces is lack of a diversified base which can be dealt with if the country ventures into the agro-industries which will benefit the country.
“The demand out there is huge for crops such as cassava with the European Union demanding over 20 million tonnes per annum,” he said.
In a separate interview, Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism Joseph Mwanamvekha said government has developed various interventions including the Buy Malawi Strategy, the Industrialisation Policy and Export Strategy which seek to improve the country’s trade performance both within and beyond the borders.
“Progress is being made and we are negotiating with Zambia, Tanzania and South Africa on better trade deals. Those that are ready and have negotiated better terms are proceeding but we are yet to reach there,” he said.