Minister Katsonga Phiri pays homage to NASFAM for championing value addition in agriculture sector

The Minister of Trade and Industry Mark Katsonga Phiri has commended the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM) for championing value addition in the agriculture sector thereby supporting government’s industrialization agenda and implementation of the National Export Strategy II.

Katsonga Phiri, who was speaking at the NASFAM 2022 Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Lilongwe on Thursday, observed that the farmer association is making significant strides in adding value to agriculture products, which benefits not only the farmers, but the country at large.

Katsonga Phiri–What NASFAM is doing is in line with government’s industrialization agenda and implementation of the National Export Strategy II–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times

“This was not the case before. If such efforts can be replicated by all, we will be talking of a different story in a few years to come,” said the minister.

This year’s AGM was held under the theme: “Market Led Production; a Foundation for Agriculture Commercialisation.”

The meeting has attracted 160 farmer representatives from 22 districts in Malawi representing over 80,000 smallholder farmers who are members of NASFAM, development partners and senior government officials.

Katsonga Phiri congratulated NASFAM for being “an exemplary farmers’ organisation in upholding governance obligations and ensuring that your general assemblies are held every year, which is not the case with most organisations.”

“This is what my ministry encourages, as this platform allows members to discuss issues and make decisions that can help to shape the future of your organisation. I am delighted because this theme resonates well with the Malawi 2063 agenda which is anchored on three pillars, and one of which is Agriculture Productivity and Commercialisation. It therefore goes without saying that the achievement of the Malawi 2063 vision relies heavily on agriculture and value adding,” he said.

The minister thanked development partners who have tirelessly committed to supporting national efforts through different projects in different government ministries and non-governmental organizations, farmer organisations and other players.

He specifically thanked the Governments of Ireland and Norway for their untiring support towards NASFAM.

“Without your help, we could not be talking of all the achievements NASFAM has registered in improving farmers livelihood. Your efforts are greatly appreciated,” emphasized Katsonga Phiri.

A farmers’ representative, Howard Msukwa, said their dream for agricultural commercialization is always frustrated by a wrong perception that “we have small land holdings, then we are not commercially minded and only exist for subsistence farming.”

Msukwa said this perception has also driven the government to mainly focus on food security at the expense of commercialization enablers when implementing various interventions targeting smallholder farming households.

“While it is true that there are some smallholder farmers who are purely subsistence, this is not the case for all them. It is us smallholder farmers who produce the majority of burley tobacco which is a key forex earner for the economy. This perception is also evident in the market place, particularly where informal traders dominant where we find that they don’t offer fair prices for our produce. Honourable Minister are well graded and of good quality – but no, the price offered is not fair at all! Even more disappointing is when private sector collude just to offer low prices to the farmer which are not in line with prevailing demand and supply,” he said.

He added, “Honourable Minister, let me highlight that we, smallholder farmers are interested in making high incomes from our farming enterprises just like any other entrepreneur- It is not right that within the agricultural value chain that all players involved should make profits except a farmer. Honourable Minister, our motto is farming is business -Ulimi ndi bizinezi- Businesss needs to generate profits and that is what we are looking for because we bring to the market, produce that needs to be paid fairly.

In line with the theme, we produce with the market in mind, but the market is not governed with farmers in mind! We produce for sale both food and cash crops and we farmers are also interested in more income and rewards that come from farming.”

Msukwa also lamented challenges of poor market access and low prices as some of the hindrances to their commercialization efforts.

He appealed for the promotion of structured markets, stressing that commercialization will only work where rules, procedures and policies are in place to support farmer participation on formal markets.

NASFAM Board Chairperson Clara Malikula said the farmer organization is currently working on addressing the challenges of Covid-19, climate change and marketing challenges.

Malikula therefore called for joint efforts, stressing that this is crucial in achieving goal.

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