Government has said it is keen to support pigeon peas growers because they have a huge potential to transform the country’s agro-based economy.
Principal Secretary II in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Bright Kumwembe said this in Blantyre last week at the launch of Nandolo Farmers Association, a grouping of pigeon peas farmers in the country.
The formation of the grouping comes against the backdrop of government’s plan to support legume production to a point where it can compete at the highest level in the global economy.
Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe, who announced an allocation of K1 billion in the 2015/16 budget to spur legumes production, said government envisages that the production line will generate up to $200 million (about K102 billion) per annum of exports.
“This will enable the country to sustain a high foreign exchange reserve position and maintain exchange rate stability. It is also a very important intervention for boosting the incomes of rural people, especially when prices can be allowed to reflect a fair return on their effort,” he said in a budget statement.
Government, which has been allocating K2 billion for legumes production for the past two financial years, has said it will exert effort to ensure the success of the programme by providing incentives to farmers to produce more legumes.
Kumwembe said the coming in of the association brings advantages not only to farmers but to the country as well.
“Government has for some time been encouraging farmers to consider farming as a business. This [association] will, therefore, motivate farmers to produce more knowing they have a ready market and enable them reap fairly from the labour invested in a growing season,” he said.
Kumwembe said government will continue announcing farm gate prices to ensure that farmers make profits to encourage them to produce more the following year.
“Our view is that if farmers are made aware of the gross margins for their crop, they will be able to negotiate not under that gross margin. Pigeon peas have been produced in the country for a long time but farmers have not benefited because some unscrupulous traders have been buying the crop from them at a lower prices,” he said.
Kumwembe said the association, in collaboration with government will create a platform for farmers to have a forum where their products will be bought at a fair price.
The association’s chairperson Susan Chimbayo in an interview said they want to raise rural incomes and promote a radical shift to producing and exporting.
She said a lot of smallholder farmers operate under diverse and challenging conditions, hence the formation of the association.
“It is through this association that pigeon peas farmers can combine forces and increase bargaining power for fair prices which in the end will put a smile on their faces,” said Chimbayo.
She called for government support, particularly on advice saying: “We hardly see extension workers coming through to help us when we grow these crops”.
Agriculture and trade experts say pigeon peas have a huge market in countries such as India and Pakistan, which are huge markets for the crop. n