At a time crop diversification has become more critical to create a wider base for the export market, a study has found that production of spice made from dried paprika could be an alternative.
This is particularly so because MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s variety called Papri Queen is reported to be on high demand in India apart from its traditional market, South Africa.
According to a value chain study conducted by Total LandCare last year, there is an urgent need to substantially increase production levels of paprika and birdÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s eye chillies in the country.
Figures indicate that the Paprika Association of Malawi (PAM) last year increased production to more than 70 000 metric tonnes lured by better than expected prices on the global market.
The study has observed that there is urgent need to improve the two cropsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ seed system; farmerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s agronomic practices through the provision of quality agricultural extension services and also improve the organisation of farmers into groups.
“To improve marketing of the two commodities, there is need to promote legally-binding contracts between producers and buyers, value-adding activities and processes so that different players experience value chain upgrading; promote domestic demand for chillies and paprika, promote vertical linkages among the buyers of paprika and chillies, and also improve the quality, timeliness and utilisation of market information,” said the study whose findings were released last December.
On the part of government, it said there is need to develop a horticultural policy, as the sector is operating without a policy, an institutional framework or a legislative framework.
The study has recommended a three-year project that will help the targeted farmers to address the major constraints and challenges that have rocked the sector over the years.
According to the study, the Malawi paprika value chain has a number of actors.
Paprika is mostly grown by smallholder producers, with Africa Invest Malawi being the only commercial producer.
The large-scale traders export the commodity mostly to brokers in South Africa, and to end-users in Europe, the United Kingdom and others parts of the developed world.
In Malawi, apart from Nali Limited that buys fresh paprika as an ingredient of its Mango achar, most of the paprika is sold to large-scale traders/players as de-seeded pods.
“Most of the Malawi paprika is exported to spice manufacturing companies and brokers in South Africa. The brokers then export the product to Europe and USA, among other markets,” said the study, stressing that the governance of Malawi paprika value chain rests with the final buyers.
It said in the buyer-driven chain, the quality demanded by the international buyers is enforced through prices.
Among the major findings of the study which covered districts such as Dowa, Dedza, Ntcheu, Salima, Nkhotakota, Nkhatabay, Mzimba and Thyolo, male farmers dominate the production of paprika.
The smallholder farmers are allocated relatively less land [18 percent] to paprika production, said the study.
Among the major constraints facing the smallholder farmers is access to market information, especially as it relates to prices.