Malawi has engaged an extra gear to reclaim the lost global groundnut market by opening a factory in Lilongwe for value addition as well as producing oil for local and export market.
A new company called Afri Oils Limited has been formed through a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement involving National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi (Nasfam), Ag DevCo, Exagris Limited, Humana Twin Trading, Cordaid and Waterloo Foundation.
The firm has set up an oil processing factory at Njewa, along the Lilongwe-Mchinji Road.
In an interview last week, the firm’s managing director Tim de Borde said it is possible for the country to reclaim its groundnut
market share in Europe, which has been affected by aflatoxins—a family of toxins produced by certain fungi found in crops such as groundnuts and maize.
He said Malawi used to export about 100 000 metric tons (MT) of groundnuts to Europe in the 1980s, but once food standards were raised, aflatoxins became a major obstacle to the country’s crop.
“We already have two containers for trial exports in German and we hope the deal will be successful. We sent several quantities of groundnuts to Zambia and we know groundnuts being a crop that is not difficult to grow, many farmers will benefit from the establishment of the factory.
“Currently, Argentina dominates the groundnut market in Europe as it exports about one million tonnes of groundnuts, and in Malawi, if we can meet the food standards set by the Europeans then we can easily export,” he said.
The company’s general manager, Hans Schonenberger, said they are yet to start refining cooking oil.
Figures provided by the company show that the factory processes 3 000MT per day, but when operating at full capacity, it will be processing 6 000MT.
An official from Nasfam, Alexander Chikapula, said groundnuts is an easy crop to grow compared to other crops and the coming in of Afri Oils should give farmers the impetus to diversify.
“There is a ready market here and farmers should take advantage of this to start growing groundnuts in large quantities,” he said.
Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism deputy director Clement Phangaphanga said government plans to develop the groundnut industry in the next five years to transform the lives of 48 000 farmers being targeted by Afri Oils.
“Oil seeds in general and groundnuts in particular, have an important place in the industrial sector in the country. Malawi has been one of the principal suppliers of groundnuts to Europe and the United States America.
“The improvements being made to the standardisation, quality assurance and metrology [Sqam] infrastructure [at Malawi Bureau of Standards] will result in easy identification of aflatoxins in groundnuts, thereby restoring the confidence of buyers of our groundnuts,” he said.
The nuts family, together with sugar and sugar products, are pivotal to the implementation of the National Export Strategy (NES) which is a springboard to diversify from tobacco.