Opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) have attached its for the country’s quick diversification drive that farrmers should start growing other crops immediately to supplement tobacco – Malawi’s number one export crop.
Malawi relies heavily on burley tobacco—grown by a majority of smallholder farmers—which is blended with flavourings because of its natural bitterness.
But the future of tobbaco which brings in 60 percent of foreign currency earnings, is under threat from the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC).
Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe recently told parliament that Malawi should aggressively start growing crops such pigeon peas, soya beans, cotton and sunflower, among others, which are on high demand and fetch good prices, on the global market.
Farmers are equally concerned with the anti-smoking campaign as the price of tobacco at the auction floors has been plummeting.
And MCP spokesperson on finance issues, Alexander Kusamba-Dzonzi while giving government tips to resuscitate the productive sector, backed the suggestion.
“Mr Speaker, Sir, in his Budget Review Statement, the Minister of Finance and Economic Development has called upon Malawian farmers to switch to legumes as a substitute for tobacco. Well, I have no reservations about that, because the world wide anti-smoking campaign has indeed negatively affected the demand for tobacco. And Malawi cannot, therefore, continue to rely on this globally reviled produce for economic recovery,” Dzonzi said in parliament.
He, however, said MCP note with concern that the government continues to identify markets and opportunities in the country and can be exploited without depending on any foreign investors or foreign market.
“The energy sector, for example, Mr Speaker, Sir, offers Malawian farmers opportunities for economic diversification, if the government mobilises resources to enable adoption of alternative energy sources.
“For instance, the adoption of ethanol and bio-diesel as main fuels for motor vehicles in Malawi, will create opportunities for our farmers to profitably engage into sugar cane farming for ethanol production. Current statistics show that Malawi’s two ethanol companies only use a small part of their production capacity due to lack of raw materials,” he said.
Dzonzi also pointed out that under the Green Built Initiative, the government has constructed another sugar plant in Salima without the requisite sugar cane production though.
“ It is sad Mr Speaker, Sir, that instead of championing the growing of sugar canes, the government through the Minister of Finance and Economic Development is busy touting the growing of legumes which will definitely require foreign markets.”
The MCP spokesman on finance also advised government to formulate policies which can breathe life into the productive sectors.
“This requires putting in place economic interventions which will lower the cost of production while at the same time offering investors and business men good return on their investment,” he said.
Dzonzi said government must seriously explore ways of using its fiscal powers in order to incentivise productivity in Malawi while ensuring the availability of markets.
“The centrality of ADMARC to agricultural productivity as a ready market for small scale farmers has been severely undermined by the lack of understanding on the part of government since 1994. Without restoring its fundamental market roles, which ADMARC was created for, it is impossible for Malawi to sustain its agricultural productivity,” he said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :