Seed producers in the country fear for the worst, as the prolonged dry spell as a result of El Nino phenomenon is threatening growth of seed crops this year.
According to Seed Trade Association of Malawi (Stam), a grouping of seed producers, processors, distributors and retailers, most of the seed crop is under threat due to the current drought.
This year, most parts of the country have received erratic rains, leading to crops wilting in the field save for a few districts in the Central Region which have experienced above normal rainfall.
In an interview on Tuesday, Stam chairperson, John Lungu said the biggest challenge this year germination of crops because the moisture regime has not been good.
“Our main hope is that rains are going to improve in the next two weeks because in many fields maize is wilting. This situation has not even spared our members and this will compromise the availability of quality seed and in the worst case scenario, there will be less seed on the market this year,” he said.
According to Lungu, last year Stam produced 25 000 metric tons of seed, but he feared that this year the output will be less.
He said: “We hope the situation on the ground will improve because some of our members took loans from banks and employ a lot of people so if the situation remains the way it is some people will lose jobs and repayment of loans will be problematic.”
The dry spell, which has hit most parts of the country, has also sent shockwaves to the tobacco sector with both Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) and Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) saying they are worried with the situation.
In an earlier interview, FUM president Alfred Kapichira Banda said loan repayment by farmers will be a problem this year because crop output will be low. He has since implored banks to give farmers affected by the drought better conditions of repayment.
Minister of Agriculture Irrigation and Water Development Allan Chiyembekeza told Business Review recently that government is putting in place measures that will help mitigate some of the effects of climate change. The measures will be announced in due course.
Last week, some agricultural development divisions (ADD’s) told The Nation that with prolonged dry spells affecting some districts such as Chiradzulu and Chikwawa in the Southern Region, the country should brace for another sharp drop in agricultural output in 2016 after the 30 percent slump in the 2015 season largely due to combined effects of floods and drought.