Some Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in export trading have decried inadequate information on key issues such as prices citing this as a stumbling block on the maximising their potential and achieving full benefits of exporting products out of the country.
Presently, Malawi is reported to have exported products, mainly agricultural products, to countries such as the United Arab Emirates, India and Zimbabwe to the tune of $ 19.2 million, $1.8 million and $ 31 million, respectively.
But despite this, Malawi Investment Trade Centre (MITC) reports indicate that there is still a minimal uptake and sustainability of export orders that are in abundance in the region despite various interventions to boost the uptake of the export orders.
The country is reported to have a number of export orders across the globe for instance in Dubai there are $200 million orders, about $110 million in Zimbabwe and $100 million in India alone.
Other than these markets, Malawi also has other export markets in Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, Zambia, South Africa, which are interested in buying cotton, beans, soya, groundnuts, rice, beans and Chillies.
Dan Kunkhoma, a private trader who exports agricultural products confided to Business News in an interview that there are a challenges in exports business but key among them is the issue of prices.
“Pricing on the international market and the local is different. Malawian products have proved to be expensive as compared to other countries. For instance Soya beans is on the Malawian market trading at $390 per tone but in Zambia it is $350.
“This goes back to our production. We dont produce alot but we want to make money. If we can only boost the our production and stop relying on one farmer only we can boost our production and become competitive,” he said.
Concurring with Kunkhoma, Small and Medium Enterprises Association (SMEA) president James Chiutsi said though there are exports orders in abundance, most traders have not taken up the orders due to pricing issues and information gap.
“As a country, we depend so much on the subsistence farmer hence our production is minimal. With this in perspective, we fail to be competitive in terms of pricing. I for one had Soya beans orders in India but i failed to make it because of the price I offered them. It didnt just make sense when compared to what others were offering,”he said.
He said there is need for frequent engagements with SMEs on how best to go about the export markets.
“As a country we need to look at the whole production process. Several government departments have to be involved in the export strategy not only MITC at the helm,”he said.
He said as entrepreneurs, they are lobbying for policies such as the SME chamber saying with this in place they will among others have organised groups to sell value added products which ferch more unlike raw products.
But MITC public relations officer Deliby Chimbalu said MITC will continue to encourage companies and exporters to explore regional and international markets as demand for Malawian products out there does exist.
She said the orgnaisation is aware of the low adoption and challenges faced hence conducts capacity development seminars just to build capacity of our exporters.
“We focus on a number of issues other than pricing which include, issues of packaging and labeling of their products, grading, post harvest handling, pricing, issues of quality standards,” she said.