Ornamental sector feels blackout impact

The ornamental sector in the country has not been spared the impact of power outages.

For fish to survive in cages, they need constant power for continued supply of air and proper circulation of fresh water.

In an interview this week, officials from  two companies in the ornamental sector—Stuart M. Grant Limited and Malawi Aquatic International—said blackouts are a constant menace which erode their profits.

The two companies export ornamental fish to Europe, China and the United States of America.

Salima-based Stuart M. Grant managing director David Nkhwazi said from 2014 to 2016 their turnover was the same, but in 2016/17 financial year which ended in June, turnover went up by 40 percent.

“But profitability went down due to inefficiencies in the energy sector.  Sometimes we have to run generators for 12 hours and these are heavy duty machines which require a lot of fuel,” he said.

Nkhwazi said the sector has huge potential, but two major problems that hinder its growth include lack of direct flights and blackouts.

“We get orders from eastern Europe, Taiwan and South America, but we cannot manage to export due to lack of direct flights. If this problem can be sorted out, it can help us generate more money.

“On blackouts, we just want to implore relevant authorities to help us, especially in this hot season because fish is a delicate animal that needs constant supply of water and fresh air,” he said.

His sentiments were echoed by Malawi Acquatic International general manager Tariro Manhendere.

He explained that they use 40 to 50 litres of diesel within 12 hours and when blackouts persists, a lot of money goes towards purchase of diesel to run heavy duty generators.

“We normally have three shipments in a month with 500 to 600 cichlids when the flights are OK, but when there are challenges in the connectivity we also suffer,” she said.

Malawi is currently experiencing power deficit as Electricity Generation Company (Egenco) is failing to produce enough hydro power due to low water levels in Lake Malawi that feeds into Shire River, the main source of hydro power generation.

According to experts in the sector, cichlids from Lake Malawi are quite active, display complex behaviours and with the right environment.

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