Smallholder farmers under the National Association of Smallholder Farmers of Malawi (Nasfam) have said there is need for authorities to support them in major agricultural initiatives if the country’s newly-launched National Export Strategy (NES) is to bear fruits.
The association has also said government, through ministries of Agriculture and Trade should encourage farmers to work through organised farmers groups such as associations and cooperatives.
Nasfam chief executive officer Dyborn Chibonga told Business News in Lilongwe this week that government should allocate adequate resources towards NES.
“We urge government to ensure the implementation of the National Export Strategy and all policies that are coherent and aligned to the NES by allocating adequate resources and professional strategy,” he said.
President Joyce Banda launched NES in Lilongwe on December 14 2012 and seeks to double exports value in the next five years.
Currently, Malawi’s exports are valued at around $1 billion against the import value of about $2.3 billion and the strategy could help the country, dogged by recurring trade deficits, generate enough foreign currency to finance for its critical imports.
Chibonga said there is need for Malawi to have a proper agriculture development bank because existing financial institutions are demanding a lot from farmers who are struggling to access credit and other financial products.
He said in the context of implementing the export strategy, there is need to prioritise developing the financial sector to provide affordable access to finance to smallholder farmers, cooperatives, young farmers and women’s groups.
Chibonga said the farmers are pleased that the NES prioritised some crops such as cotton, groundnuts, sunflower and soya beans, among others.
“Therefore, it is befitting to include and involve the smallholder farmers in this strategic nation direction [NES],” he said.
He described the strategy as an important tool in emphasising production efforts.
When she unveiled the strategy, Banda said the blueprint seeks to double Malawi’s exports in the next five years.
Banda said NES will set out a path to diversify into a new exports sectors and in-turn move from exporting raw commodities to value added goods.
“The success of the National Export Strategy will, therefore, be determined by policy coherence and comprehensiveness, the degree and quality of policy implementation, communication mechanisms and the day-to-day work of stakeholders including farmers, youth, women, micro and small businesses, large business and government,” she said.
The Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) president Matthews Chikankheni also said during the launch that private sector looks forward to the day when Malawi will increase export activity and realise trade surplus with the export strategy in place.
In Malawi, 80 percent of farmers are smallholders and despite being resource poor, they produce about 80 percent of Malawi’s food and 20 percent of its agricultural exports.