Ministry of Trade says it has gone flat out to promote non-traditional crops in its quest to expand the export base.
Ministry of Trade assistant director of trade Diamond Chikhasu said this yesterday on the sidelines of a Root and Tuber Crops Development Trust symposium for root and tuber crops stakeholders and regulatory authorities in the sector.
He said growing and promoting roots and tuber crops is very important to the economy as government wants to diversify the product base, particularly in the export market.
Said Chikhasu: “We are working to secure international markets, being mindful of the need to diversify our export basket.
“We are working to secure markets from European Union and China for processed agricultural products.”
He said the coming in of roots and tuber produce aims at promoting the export quality products such as starch for industrial processing, flour for consumption and sauce, among others.
Root and Tuber Crops Development Trust board chairperson Jean Pankuku said the production of root and tuber crops is rising yearly because of the greater potential of coming up with industrial products from the crops.
She said there is so much potential in the products produced for the market from root and tuber produce.
Pankuku said: “In my case, I am producing sweet potato bread but I can’t even reach 10 percent of the market demand of one region.
“There is high demand for starch in industries such as pharmaceutical and glue for plastic and packaging industry, the companies are importing these products but we can produce these locally from cassava”.
She bemoaned the lack of capacity to meet the demand; hence, called for deliberate efforts to invest in the sector to reap benefits and contribute to economic growth.
A farmer from Bembeke Extension Planning Area in Dedza, Matinesi Gangata said potato production is lucrative and since the market is available, everything that is produced is sold without problems.
The Root and Tuber Crops Development Trust is a local non-profit making organisation which was established in 2010 under the Department of Agricultural Research Services to address challenges that root and tuber crops face including lack of coordination.