Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe says they are working on modalities to revamp operations of Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) to rescue farmers from unscrupulous traders.
The minister said this on Wednesday after visiting some agro-processors and farmers’ schemes in Salima, Dedza, Mchinji, Kasungu and Lilongwe.
“It is only when Admarc gets back on its feet that these malpractices of exploiting farmers can stop.
“Admarc acts as a prices benchmark for the private buyers who are forced to comply to farm-gate prices or offer more to compete with Admarc,” said Lowe.
He said: “Imagine cotton farmers this year are complaining that buyers are offering them prices as low as K200 per kilogramme [kg] while government farm-gate price for cotton is around K300 per kg. What will the farmer benefit?”
Lowe said when government is setting up farm-gate prices, it considers the cost of producing a kilogramme of a crop and adds a mark-up for the farmer.
This means that when buyers offer prices lower than farm-gate prices, they are eating into a farmer’s profit or even the capital, thereby bringing the farmer down.
“If a farmer experiences this kind of treatment for two to three years then for sure the following year that farmer will not produce and that is what government does not want to see happening,” said Lowe.
But Huang Hai Taylor, China Africa Textiles Limited manager, said the problem can be solved if government reviews the Seed Policy to ensure that seed is locally produced.
He said: “Imagine that we don’t have our own cotton seed. We rely on cotton seed from Zambia and Zimbabwe yet as agro-processors we give seed to farmers and this adds on to our costs.
“For the past four years, the company has not made any profit.”
The minister also engaged officials at Malawi Mangoes Limited in Salima, where he urged them to offer attractive prices to farmers to benefit from their work.
Malawi Mangoes general manager Charlie Leaper said currently the firm is working with 11 Mango farmers cooperatives who are benefiting from a stable market.
“The farmers can attest to what I am saying. We have a very good relationship with farmers, they give us raw materials in form of mangoes and we give them good prices,” he said.
Lowe also visited Bwanje Dam and Nambuna Rice Scheme in Dedza where farmers said their major challenge is a stable market for their crop, adding that in most cases, they are exploited by private traders.
The minister also visited Innoseria Holticulture Centre in Lilongwe, Changazi Irrigation Scheme and Likasi Livestock Farm in Mchinji and Bowe Mission Holticulture Farmers Association in Kasungu.