Malawi needs to engage extra efforts and capitalise on legumes such as groundnuts, soy beans and sunflower as they present numerous advantages, a study has shown.
The study titled Harnessing Agricultural Trade for Sustainable Development: Malawi, conducted by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) said all the three crops offer significant export opportunities.
The study comes at a time Malawi is registering notable decline in tobacco exports, which is touted as Malawi’s key foreign exchange earner, due to worldwide anti-smoking lobby championed by the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC).
It says the crops offer advantages in diversifying away from traditional crops such as tobacco and maize, which could reduce the country’s exposure to market shocks and climate change.
Reads in part the study: “Available figures presently indicate that potential export earnings from groundnuts grown by poor communities throughout Malawi are estimated at around $48.4 million [about K36.2 billion], of which over half is as yet unrealised.
“On the other hand, the demand for sunflower oil is growing in Malawi and foreign exchange constraints can encourage processors to source from domestic producers while soy bean is in great demand both for the production of protein-rich meals as well as for livestock feed.”
The study has recommended speeding up processing of testing and certification for exporters and promoting mutual recognition of regional test certificate to facilitate trade.
In an interview on Monday, agriculture expert Tamani-Nkhono Mvula observed that the study findings are accurate, but the challenge to scale up and capitalise on the economic potential of the crops.
He said there is need to put in place institutional frameworks and stakeholder coordination mechanisms for value chain development of the legumes.
“It is indeed important for Malawi to diversify its agriculture production, but this will require a strong leadership from government as all the stakeholders such as farmers and the private sector,” he said.
In the 2019/20 National Budget, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Joseph Mwanamveka announced that government will intensify efforts to ensure adoption of climate-smart agriculture, irrigation and large-scale farming for the production of export crops.
He said government will provide an enabling environment for the establishment of efficient and vibrant structured markets for different crops such as rice, groundnuts and pulses, with proper export mandates.
Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development records show that the country’s legumes, including groundnuts, soy beans and common beans will be produced from an approximated 804 727 hectares with an average per capita land holding size of 0.4 hectares.