Exagris Africa Limited (EAA), one of the country’s bird’s eye chillies exporters, has assured growers in Machinga and Zomba that it will buy their entire crop this season, bringing excitement to the growers.
EAA senior outgrower manager Charles Chikopa said on Friday they plan to buy about 150 metric tonnes of chillies, up from last year’s 112 metric tonnes. The company spent K64 million (about $189 000) to buy the crop in the two districts.
“We want to empower the farmers by allowing them to grow the crop so that we buy the produce. In this way, we are transforming lives of chillies farmers and increasing their household earnings,” said Chikopa, at T/A Chamba headquarters in Malosa, Zomba, during the bonus cheque presentation for marketing clusters that sold two tonnes or more for the crop per market site to the company.
EAA is working in partnership with Wellness and Agriculture for Live Advancement (Wala) project to link smallholder farmers to markets by developing an outgrower programme targeting organised farmer groups.
The partnership started in 2010 as a pilot with Wala partner, Emmanuel International, taking the lead to link about 500 farmers to EAA.
The farmers participating in the programme signed an outgrower contract which guarantees them a market for their crop, extension support and subsidised seed from the company.
Farmers say they have been attracted to the growing of chillies because of the high price the buyer offers.
Last season, chillies were bought at K615 (about $1.80) per kilogramme and this season, EAA has assured farmers that they will buy the crop at a higher price.
A chillies farmer, Mleme Sapanga, told Business News that he sees a bright future for the crop.
Sapanga grew the crop on a one and half hectare and realised K280 000 (about $823) and this year, he has increased the hectarage to three and half and he expects to rake in over K500 000 (about $1 470).
“With the money I realised last year, I managed to roof my house with corrugated iron sheets, electrified my house and also established a grocery shop,” he said.
Sapanga’s story is similar to those of most growers engaging in the farming of the crop, who have seen their livelihoods changing for the better.
At the function, six clusters received their bonus totaling K694 635, with Kanjuli cluster receiving the highest bonus of K78 825 (about $231).
Available figures indicate that the volume of chillies bought from Wala farmers was about 40 percent of the total crop exported by Exagris in 2012.
According to Wala, through the marketing fairs and continued training and technical support to farmers, the number participating farmers in the programme has increased to over 10 000 for the 2012/13 season and farmers are expected to triple their earnings from sale of the crop at the end of the current season.
“Chillies have a much higher return on capital than maize and can boost typical household incomes by 300 percent under the right conditions. Most importantly, farmers are driven by the guaranteed market,” says a statement from Wala.
Some of the farmers said the crop has increased their earnings and that those who sold chillies were not as negatively affected by the food shortages because they had money to meet their food needs for additional months compared to those who relied on maize.