- Category: Business News
- Published Date
- Written by Chikondi Chiyembekeza
Malawi is set to become one of the first countries in Southern Africa to commission the biggest and state-of-the-art rice milling machine courtesy of Nkhotakota-based Mtalimanja Holdings Limited (MHL).
The firm has bought the machine which was assembled in China at $17 million (K6 billion, at the current exchange rate) and is expected to be shipped between June and July this year.
Both MHL chairperson Napoleon Dzombe and managing director David Kamchacha confirmed the machine will be planted in Nkhotakota as one way of revolutionising the agriculture sector.
Over 7 000 rice farmers have already been given certified seeds, tractors and 1 500 bags of fertiliser to boost productivity.
“There is talk of greenbelt in the country, but nothing is being done. What we have done as a company is to implement a concept similar to the greenbelt which is going to help the country generate foreign exchange,” he said.
MHL will be milling 200 tonnes per day and requires about 20 000 tonnes of paddy; hence, the decision to engage the farmers in irrigation farming, said Dzombe.
He said they have started with Nkhotakota because of availability of water and its history in rice farming.
“When we are through with Nkhotakota, we will be looking at other districts such as Ntchisi, Dowa and Dedza on how we can help farmers improve farming methods so that they can move from subsistence to commercial farming. We will also be setting up factories in those areas for value-adding other crops,” said Dzombe.
He said Ntchisi and Dedza have similar weather patterns; hence, could be good areas to produce wheat, coffee, macadamia nuts and potatoes.
Dzombe said there is need to empower farmers to produce more and value-add their crops for export market if the country is to move out from the current economic mess.
“The problem in Malawi is that our economy being agro-based is in the hands of illiterate peasant farmers while in countries such as South Africa, rich and well-educated farmers are involved in agriculture as a result, they produce quality crops,” he said.
Kamchacha said they want to empower farmers by giving them the necessary expertise to improve harvests.
He said plans are at an advanced stage to help farmers grow rice twice or three times a year to meet the quantities needed on the international market.
“We will be buying the rice from the farmers, but after all the processes have been accomplished. We will also be giving the farmers a commission known as ‘champini’. We have done this to motivate the farmers so that they know they are part of the company,” said Kamchacha.
Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) president Felix Jumbe commended the company for the initiative which he described as timely.
“We need such kind of projects to change the mindset of farmers because Malawi is an agro-based country. As long as we don’t give enough attention to agriculture, we will continue to face the problems we are currently facing as a country,” he said.
The polished rice from the factory will be exported whereas rice flour will be used for making maheu. The bran will be used to make animal feed while husks will be used to make ceiling boards and brickets.