Malawi’s agricultural exports on the global market have over the eight-year period declined by 4.8 percent, published figures from World Trade Organisation (WTO) show.
The figures show that during the same period, imports quickened by 2.2 percent.
A WTO Market Access for Products and Services of Export Interest to Least Developed Countries (LDC) Report published on Wednesday indicates that in 2018, for instance, Malawi exported agricultural products valued at $1 billion (about K740 billion).
This export value made Malawi the seventh top exporter of agricultural products in 2018 out of 20 LDCs with its agricultural export share increasing by 14.6 percent during the year under review.
At the same time, imports also grew by 10.9 percent in 2018 to $2.8 billion (about K2.1 billion).
The report shows that the 27-country trade bloc European Union (EU) was the main destination of LDCs’ exports in 2011, with a share of 25.8 percent.
In 2018, the EU accounted for 24.7 percent market share, followed by China at 18.4 percent in 2018, with India and United States on third and fourth respectively.
The agriculture sector accounts for about 30 percent of Malawi’s gross domestic product (GDP), contributing about 80 percent of total export earnings and employs over 64 percent of the country’s workforce, according to the National Statistical Office (NSO).
The Malawi Government, through National Agriculture Investment Programme (Naip), seeks to promote diversification of agricultural production and exports to improve resilience as well as expanding the synergies between agriculture-led growth.
Legumes are earmarked by the National Export Strategy (NES) and Naip as having potential for export as the country seeks to diversify away from traditional export crops such as tobacco, sugar, and tea.
In an interview yesterday, agriculture analyst Tamani Nkhono-Mvula said diversification of exports can be achieved if the crops identified in the NES are provided with the necessary institutional and structural instruments for the growth of their value chains.
He said: “For instance, right regulatory institutions need to be created, special funding mechanisms for production and value- addition need to be put in place and if need be, export subsidies need to be put in place for those crops.
“Production for exports has to be a deliberate policy for government, one that is implementable and not only being on paper. .”
Legumes Development Trust chairperson responsible for value chain and markets Vincent Mpaluko on Monday said there has been a mismatch in the production value chain, adding that farmers could produce what the market was not looking for in terms of volumes and quality and also without ready markets.
According to WTO, exports of LDCs continue to be concentrated in primary products, accounting for 58 percent of their exports.