Malawi does not have a certified chickpea variety, a situation that has seen the country failing to penetrate the international market, researchers have said.
Following this, researchers are now proposing the release of three new high-yielding and stress resistant varieties of chickpeas.
Although the demand for the leguminous crop is growing in Asia, catalysed by high demand in the food industry, Malawi has not yet seized the opportunity.
A report by a Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centres (CGIAR) indicates that researchers are fast-tracking the release of the new chickpea varieties for Malawi’s export market.
“The aim of the release is to cater for the needs of farmers in the south eastern districts who are increasingly growing chickpea for its high-value in Asian markets and low water consumption as a crop,” reads the report in part.
The report further says to fast-track the release of improved varieties, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (Icrisat) is engaging farmers in participatory testing and selection.
But Icrisat chickpea principal investigator Arsenio Chimphamba laments the lack of interest shown in the research.
“Chickpea research has received little attention in Malawi compared to other countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia,” he said.
Chimphamba agreed with CGIAR that there is high demand for chickpea in Asian countries, but Malawi fails to export her produce to these countries because there are no known varieties that farmers produce.
“Research on chickpea varieties will assist farmers grow high-yielding chickpea varieties that are adaptable to Malawian conditions.
“This will improve farmers income and increased food security. Chickpea also contributes to soil fertility and water holding capacity of the soil,”’ he said.
Chimphamba said the Department of Agricultural Research Services with funding from Multi Seeds Company (Museco) are in second year of research of chickpea varieties.
While chickpea is normally grown in the Southern Region of Malawi, it does well in comparable environments in the Central and Northern Regions, according to the research.
AHL Commodities Exchange (AHCX) research and communications manager Mark Ndipita said in an interview on Tuesday there is huge demand for chickpeas from local and international buyers, but supply is the challenge.
“We have been receiving lots of inquiries of the commodity from potential buyers that demand huge volumes, but the key challenge is supply side,” he said.
Globally, a report by IMARC Group titled Chickpeas Market: Global Industry Trends, Opportunities and Forecast 2018-2023 estimates that the global chickpeas market reached 12.3 million tonnes in 2017 and will reach 13 million tonnes by 2023. n