The Common Market for East and Central Africa (Comesa) has said Malawi is failing to meet its local demand for the textile and garments exports due to to lack of equipment and raw materials.
Comesa secretary general Sindiso Ngwenya said this in Blantyre on Tuesday during the official handover of the Malawi Enterprise Productivity Enhancement Project (Mepe) equipment to the Malawi Council for the Handicapped (Macoha).
For instance, Ngwenya said that in 2015 alone, the sector imported an estimated $153 million (K112 billion) worth of textile and garments.
“This gives an idea of the local market demand. If one takes the case of police and nurses uniforms alone, it is estimated that there are 11 144 police officers and 12 215 nurses in Malawi.
“This translates into 22 288 pieces of police uniforms and 24 430 for nurses assuming the minimal number of units giving us a total of 46 720 pieces of uniforms for just police and nurses per annum. The estimated total worth amounts to about K1.2 billion or $1.5 million annually,” he said.
Ngwenya said for finished products similar to uniforms, Malawi imported at estimated a293 000 pieces at approximately $19.65 (K14 344) per piece which adds up to K4.1 billion ($5.7 million) against 167 000 pieces sold at about $38 (K28 000) in exports in 2015.
This, he said, puts Malawi with an estimated deficit of 126 000 pieces which can be tackled through improving domestic production in terms of quantity, quality and pricing.
Ngwenya said the equipment, estimated at close to 92 000 euros (about K70 million), is expected to increase the productive capacity of the targeted small and medium enterprises by over 50 percent to 70 200 pieces from the current level estimated at 46 800 pieces of garments and clothing materials per annum.
In his remarks, Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism Joseph Mwanamvekha said the equipment will help to boost production of the small businesses and cooperatives that have either been operating obsolete equipment or small and domestic categories of sewing equipment.
“We cannot develop this garment and clothing sector at such level of production. Today, 53 industrial grade machines will be shared between Macoha Bangwe Weaving Factory and Lilongwe Compsip Textiles Cooperative Society according to their capacities.
“It is our expectation that these machines can be accessible to the general public, of course at a fee, to help improve the quality of the products that will be produced.