Rice is considered as one of the key strategic crops to be promoted in Malawi not only because it has the potential to be promoted primarily as an import substitute, but also secondarily as an export crop.
As an export crop, rice has the potential to generate the much needed revenue in the country, explained Professor David Kamchacha, chairperson of the National Rice Development Platform(NRDP) at the National Rice Marketing Conference and Fair on Wednesday.
But if rice is to be exported, he added, it is imperative that the marketing systems in the rice value chain be improved and strengthened so as to benefit all the value chain players from the smallholder farmer to exporter.
Kamchacha noted that marketing of rice in Malawi continues to be hampered by a number of factors chief of which is lack of a structured market system.
He cited one common issue of minimal interface between the large scale buyers and the farmers.
“Majority of rice farmers do not have potential viable markets for their rice and rely on common seasonal vendors and traders. 95% of the smallholder rice producers sell their rice to local traders. As such, the farmers are limited in terms of the price gains due to their inability to benefit from higher prices offered by the large scale millers.
He also disclosed that 74% of rice producers sell un-milled rice (paddy) while the remainder is milled by smallholder farmers themselves who sell it with a degree of value addition. In some cases, farmers sell rice to their association or cooperative which markets the rice for them. This helps farmers attain better prices.
Another issue facing rice marketing is the minimal storage capacity among the smallholders, hampering farmers from taking advantage of seasonal price hikes, said Kamchacha.
“As a result, the rice farmers end up being the price-takers as they enter the market at the lowest point in the seasonal price. This situation of immediate post-harvest crop sales is also unhelpful for the processors as they have to find capital to purchase in bulk, within a short period of the season rather than make purchases at intervals throughout the season,” lamented Kamchacha.
“There is also a challenge of limited information sharing between rice producers and traders as well as processors. Rice farmers at times produce without knowing the varieties and quantities demanded by traders and processors.
“The traders and processors are not forthcoming with the volumes and quantities demanded by the market. Hence, rice trading tends to be ad hoc and mainly on individual basis which compromises quality of rice as well as the bargaining power of rice producers for a better price,” he said.
He however stated that the National Rice Marketing Conference and Fairorganised towards the goal of developing strong rice market through strengthened market linkages provided a platform for dialogue among the stakeholders on marketing issues and an opportunity for business to business meeting; and also provides a platform for introduction of warehouse receipt system in the rice value chain.
Principal Secretary for Ministry of Industry and Trade, Cliff Chiunda applauded NRDP for organising the National Rice Marketing Conference and Fairobserving that the initiative complements government’s efforts in improving farmer’s access to markets and promoting investment in agricultural sector for increased agricultural exports.
Chiunda implored sector players to join hands to implement strategic actions outlined in the rice development strategy for farmer to realise increased income and export earnings through sustainable rice production, marketing and utilization.
The National Rice Marketing Conference and Fairwas organised by NRDP which is facilitated by AICC, CISANET and ICCO. Membership of the NRDP is open to the players in the Malawi’s rice value chain.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :