The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) has said Malawi is fast losing its market share in the 19-member trade bloc and beyond the African continent largely due to food-related risks.
Comesa lead expert and adviser on food safety, plant and animal health Martha Byanyima said this on Tuesday in Blantyre during the opening of the Comesa Business Council (CBC) training workshop on local sourcing for partnerships.
She said due to food and animal safety problems, Malawi has lost its market share in the world and continues to lose it in regional markets because of its uncompetitiveness on trade-related issues.
She said: “Malawi in the 1970s was a major exporter of groundnuts to Europe, but it stopped exporting to Europe because of problems related to plant health and food safety, which are barriers to trade.
“So, you have to deal with it but as a council, we have programmes currently dealing with this. When you go to Shoprite, you will find that over 80 percent of fresh food in there is from South Africa but you cannot export to South Africa because you have not mitigated pests to the extent that South Africa cannot trust you. They say you are exporting pests to their country.”
Byanyima said although intra-regional trade is expanding in Comesa, there is need for member countries to be more practical in their business operations to benefit small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
“Comesa has successfully established a free trade area where everything you produce has duty-free access in the 19-member bloc, but you do not trade. Our food import is high, at 80 percent, and we are getting it from outside the regional bloc or from countries that are paying duty to enter our countries and are more competitive than us.
“The only difference is that we have a supply chain that is not connected; there is limited integration of our businesses in regional supply chains and this is what we are dealing with from the regulatory side to the business side,” she said.
Malawi Chambers of Confederation of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) chief operating officer Chimwemwe Luhanga, in a separate interview, said Malawi is currently working on international certification and embracing international practices, which if fully adopted, would increase the country’s market penetration on the global market.
“Firstly, government through Malawi Bureau of Standards [MBS] has already taken steps to put up state-of-the-art laboratory which should help in offering international certification of the products produced locally and we should be able to penetrate the international market.
“Secondly, we must embrace international practices in the manner we conduct production processes in Malawi [and] that way we should be able to equally compete on the international market,” she said.