The Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) fisheries technical adviser Motseki Hlatshwayo says the country’s fish industry is not thoroughly exploited.
He was speaking in Lilongwe on Wednesday during an Aquaculture Policy Research Dissemination Seminar, a side event to the Sadc regional dialogue aimed at building resilience in fisheries and aquaculture in Southern Africa.
Hlatshwayo said as the country is diversifying agriculture, it needs to invest more in aquaculture sector to reap more rewards.
He said: “You are having a resource that you are not paying attention to. It is a resource that has proven over years that it’s gold that is just sitting there.
“You have Lake Malawi without multiple spaces. Some of them can be used for production of fish but we are not paying attention. Instead we are chasing tobacco and crops when Chambo is just sitting here.”
Hlatshwayo said to improve the fish sector, the country needs to invest in improvement of species that are available in the country.
“Malawi has started improving the Chambo and I think we need to give the scientists more time to invest more time in genetic improvement. Those processes take long. We need to give these scientists support,” he said.
A recent study by Mwapata Institute, an independent agricultural policy think-tank, revealed that the fish sector is affected by lack of relevant extension services, including lack of input markets, lack of access to good quality feed and poor quality of fingerlings.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Natural Resources Principal Secretary Yanira Ntupanyama has said government is working on addressing the challenges.
“The government has invested a lot in training extension workers so that they are able to train farmers in the aquaculture. They are also monitoring the type of feed these farmers give to the fish so that at the end of the day they have quality fish,” she said.
Meanwhile, Mwapata Institute executive director William Chanza, has asked the private sector to get more involved in aquaculture if the industry it to contribute more to the economic growth.
Despite the challenges facing the sector, Malawi’s annual fish production increased to 173 480 metric tonnes (MT) in 2021, raking in K187.3 billion from sales, an increase of 1.5 percent from the previous year.
In 2020, Malawi produced 170 844 MT of fish, generating K183.3 billion, according to the 2022 Malawi Government Annual Economic Report.
Looking ahead, government is projecting that fish production will increase from the current 173 480 metric tonnes to 178 684 MT and 182 258 MT in 2022 and 2023, and this will translate to increased projected accrued monetary value of K194.8 billion, and K200.5 billion, respectively.