The Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) says Malawi will continue losing its export market share of agricultural commodities unless a comprehensive programme is put in place to boost exports of other crops apart from tobacco, tea and sugar.
FUM president Felix Jumbe said Malawi has lost sight of its economic strength by concentrating less on economic development.
Jumbe argued that, for instance, the country used to export a lot of rice in the 1970s up to the 1990s, but has not been exporting rice since 1997.
“There is now little rice production and the irrigation schemes that were developed are not at full production right from Karonga to Nsanje…the most affected are those in rural areas as well as farmers who have solely rely on government subventions for their economic wellbeing,” he said.
Jumbe said there is need for the country to go back to the drawing board to prevent the economy from collapsing further.
He said the agriculture sector presents an opportunity for Malawi to recovery in the shortest possible time.
Jumbe claimed that the coming in of World Bank sponsored Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs) and plural politics, has resulted in government focusing much on the economic development of the country.
“Due to structural changes that came in the late 1980s with the SAPs, agriculture is not what it used to be and its contribution to gross domestic product has moved downwards from 40 percent to the current 26 percent,” he said.
Jumbe said SAPs were aimed at reducing government involvement in private sector business, and this culminated into government’s reduced participation in agricultural investments such as offering credit inputs by Smallholder Credit Administration (SACA) which became Malawi Rural Finance Company (MRFC).
There was also the withdrawal of the Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) involvement in key buying activities and privatisation of some government operations such as the management of irrigation schemes.
Jumbe noted that as a result, farmers have been left as orphans in the rural areas with no support except for the current Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) which goes to 50 percent of smallholder farmers and is more like a relief programme.
Late last year, the Malawi Government launched the National Export Strategy (NES) which aims to boost the country’s export volume, particularly for non-traditional export crop to widen the export base.
Malawi’s economy in recent times grew, on average, by 7.5 percent thanks to the successful implementation of the eight-year old Fisp coupled with good rains.