The Malawi Investment and Trade Centre (Mitc) has said it is still upbeat about the Nkhotakota Mtalimanja Rice Factory, which it says has capacity to generate $300 million (K219 billion) annually.
This is, however, the situation despite failure by the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) to connect the factory to the grid since it started operations in September 2016, a situation which is costing the establishment K815 000 per day.
The factory, owned by philanthropist Napoleaon Dzombe, has over 600 hectares of land, but currently uses 70 hectares for growing rice—processing 30 tonnes of paddies per day—yet has capacity to produce over 300 tonnes per day.
In an interview after touring the factory on Monday, Mitc spokesperson Deliby Chimbalu said the factory is one of the biggest in this part of Africa and has capacity to mill a lot of rice.
“This is a massive investment that needs our support. If production can be enhanced, it will make Malawi one of the biggest producers of rice in this part of Africa. Rice produced here is of high quality and has an aromatic flavour. It can even be exported to Europe,” Chimbalu said during the tour.
According to Chimbalu, the economic benefits of developing the rice value chain to the Malawi economy are enormous, and they include foreign exchange generation through rice exports and sustainable poverty alleviation through economic empowerment of rural rice farmers.
Mtalimanja factory manager John Adams said electricity remains one of the challenges suppressing the company.
“The main product being produced here is polished rice followed by broken rice. We also get bran for animal feed, rice flour for making Maheu and husks which are bought by poultry companies to make chicken beddings.
“We are yet to be connected to the Escom grid, but we have been assured that we will be connected this year. This will be a relief because we are spending about K815 000 per day to run the machines. These machines use 1 000 litres of diesel in eight hours. It is expensive to run,” said Adams.
He said currently, there are 27 farmers on the farm—growing rice under contract— but they are also working with other farmers at Bua, Lipimbi, Mapala as well as Lifuwu, Limphasa and Bwanje to increase production.
Meanwhile, government, through the Enhanced Intergrated Framework (EIF) project, is helping the rice milling factory through market linkages.
The EIF project is promoting Malawi to value-add its products for export into regional markets.
The project is also supporting the promotion of Malawi’s value-added exports to Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania, South Africa and some Comesa members along the Nacala Corridor.
At the moment, the EIF project, through Mitc, is helping Mtalimanja factory in addressing challenges it is facing in the production of rice by encouraging rice cooperatives to supply their rice to the factory.