The World Bank has urged Malawi on the need to diversify its cash crops to avoid overdependence on tobacco for foreign exchange which has proved to be less reliable.
The bank’s vice-president for Africa region, Makhtar Diop, believes the World Bank can work with Malawi in the process of agriculture diversification.
He said this yesterday after meeting President Peter Mutharika at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe as part of his two-day visit to the country.
Said Diop: “Bringing different crops in the agriculture sector is another area that we would like to work with you and ensure that we have a condition to continue bringing the private sector in some of the input provision and credit provision to the agriculture sector.
There is also huge potential in exporting agriculture produce.”
In his remarks, President Mutharika acknowledged that the country’s dependency on tobacco has made it vulnerable and has put it at the mercy of the international market, especially because tobacco is one of the crops that is not internationally regulated.
According to Mutharika, tobacco has been unreliable, hence, the country is already looking at alternative cash crops such as legumes whose marketing system is already being set up.
He said: “Tobacco is the only commodity where buyers decide what the price is to be and also it is the crop that is not subjected to international agreements [unlike] coffee, tea, cotton and others.
“So it has been unreliable and clearly we have to move ahead of that and we are moving so much that we are looking at the market for other crops in Asia and we have already set up two commodity exchange where cooperatives, after ascertaining that the prices are better, can sell their produce.”
Tobacco has of late faced a lot of challenges on the world market, including an anti-smoking lobby by World Health Organisation (WHO). n