Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Kondwani Nankhumwa has admitted that tobacco, the country’s main foreign exchange earner, continues to face diminishing global demand due to anti-smoking campaign.
Speaking when he officially opened the second Agriculture Transformation Summit in Lilongwe on Thursday, the minister emphasised the need to speed up diversification efforts.
“The Government of Malawi is prioritising diversification of our food and export base. However, this is an enormous task that cannot be done with the required speed by government acting alone,” he said.
The concern about declining tobacco demand comes amid projections by the Tobacco Commission (TC) that tobacco buying companies want to buy 154.3 million kilogrammes (kg) in 2020, a figure which is slightly higher than this year’s aggregate demand of 149.6 million kg.
Nankhumwa welcomed efforts and contributions of government partners, including the Agricultural Transformation Initiative (ATI) towards diversification of the export base.
ATI is a core pillar of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, an independent, United States of America non-profit organisation that seeks to improve global health by ending smoking.
In Malawi, ATI is supporting identification of alternative value chains and economic opportunities, enhancing productivity and production through investments in science, technology and innovation, facilitating commercialisation through innovative financing solutions, focusing on the creation and application of new markets, supporting sustainable business models to improve economic opportunities and supporting targeted agricultural policy reforms.
Nankhumwa said government has developed the National Agricultural Investment Plan (Naip), which is the medium-term investment framework for the agricultural sector.
On his part, Foundation for a Smoke-Free World president Derek Yach explained that investing in science and technology in young people can make a big impact in Malawi, which is part of their focus in terms of ATI work.
He said: “The ATI aims to support diversification of tobacco-dependent economies and I am glad that government [of Malawi] understands that investing in science and technology and innovation among young people and also strong academic institution such as university is crucial in supporting this diversification.”
During the summit participants shared ideas on agriculture diversification initiatives.