Minister of Trade Sosten Gwengwe says he is saddened that many retail chain stores and supermarkets are stocking imported agriculture products at a time the country has potential to satisfy the domestic market.
The minister said going forward, no import permits will be issued for products that local companies can produce and satisfy the local market.
Gwengwe said this on Thursday in Lilongwe when he and Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe visited Nasfam Commercial processing facilities at Kanengo industrial area.
Nasfam Commercial is an entity wholly-owned by the National Association of Smallholder Farmers in Malawi (Nasfam), which was created in 2003 to help address challenges facing smallholder farmers.
Said Gwengwe: “What is saddening is that most supermarkets that have mushroomed in the country are mostly stocking imported agriculture products, including maize flour, fruits and vegetables.
“However, with what I have seen today that Nasfam and of course others elsewhere are doing by investing in commercial agriculture, there is hope for this nation that one day we will stop importing these basic products.”
He said government will support efforts by Nasfam and others to fully serve the domestic market and also ensure that their products reach all the corners of the world through the different trade arrangements that the country has at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels.
Gwengwe said through the Buy Malawi Strategy and many more initiatives being pursued under his ministry, he will ensure that local products are given the visibility and that no import permits are issued for products that are produced within the country.
Over the years, the country has been draining hard-earned foreign currency on imported goods, a situation which has also led to recurring yawning trade gap.
This is despite government preaching import-substitution, an idea that blocking imported goods can help an economy by increasing the demand for domestically produced goods.
The minister said his ministry and law enforcing agencies are also working to deal with smuggling and selling of counterfeit products on the market.
He also encouraged Nasfam to engage with his ministry in dealing with market access limitations the association is experiencing.
On her part, Nasfam chief executive officer Betty Chinyamunyamu also complained about the influx of maize flour and other goods from neighbouring countries, which she said is hurting its members.
She said the association has acquired quality equipment which has enabled it to build a reputation as the trusted supplier of kilombero rice.
Said Chinyamunyamu: “At the moment, Nasfam has a stable market for a small quantities of rice, which is sold to supermarkets in Scotland under Fair Trade arrangements.
“The company used to export groundnuts to the United Kingdom under Fair Trade, but exports were suspended due to aflatoxin issues. Efforts are underway to implement aflatoxin management systems to revive groundnuts Fair Trade exports.”