Prices of unprocessed rice in Nkhotakota and Salima have gone down by about 50 percent largely due to increased output, forcing many farmers to abandon winter farming.
Salima and Nkhotakota are two of the country’s districts that grow rice in abundance largely through irrigation.
As a result of the plunge in the prices, a 50 kilogramme (kg) bag of rise is now selling at K5 000 from K10 000, and this means a kilogramme is selling at K100, which is a record low.
Speaking in interviews on Thursday, farmers said they feel it is not profitable to venture into winter cropping when they cannot sell what they harvested this year.
Traders from as far as Karonga, one of the districts that produce rice in the Northern Region, have also descended on the two districts to purchase the commodity.
A farmer from Benga in Salima, Aubren Nkhoma, said he has harvested 105 bags of rice, but has only sold 44 bags which has earned him K200 000.
“I did not expect to get this little from so many bags because last year, a bag was being sold at K10 000. Last year, I sold 10 bags and I got K180 000.
“I have decided to stop selling the rice because it does not make business sense as prices continue to go down,” he said.
Another farmer, Damiano Phiri of Mtete Village in Traditional Authority Mwadzama said he has 30 bags of rice, but is failing to sell the commodity as the prices being offered by vendors are low.
“I can foresee many farmers being discouraged from cultivating their fields this year because prices are poor. Our plea is that government must help us get markets because we have the commodities but there is no market. This scenario is what is forcing many farmers not to do winter cropping,” he said.
An agriculture expert, Tamani Nkhono-Mvula, who is former executive director of Civil Society Agriculture Network (CisaNet), has urged farmers to hold on to their rice because it can be kept longer unlike maize.
But he urged farmers not to abandon winter cropping because they will still need to produce food for their households.
He said: “I believe prices of crops have gone down because of speculation, especially on maize. People know that there is too much maize this year and they have pushed it onto the market; hence, it is fetching poor prices because it is in abundance.
“If farmers have rice, it is better to wait up until October and November when prices will pick up,” advised Nkhono-Mvula.
He urged the farmers to join associations or cooperatives to bargain for prices as a group and have access to structured markets.