President Peter Mutharika has said agriculture remains the mainstay of Malawi economy thus government will ensure that the agriculture sector is significantly transformed.
He made the remarks at the Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe on Friday when he officially launched the Agriculture Commercialization Project (AGCOM).
The President said it was therefore imperative that any economic development strategies towards economic development and prosperity should start with transforming the agricultural sector.
Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development is implementing the US$95 million AGCOM Project with financial loan from the World Bank. It is a nation-wide project and will run for six years until 2023.
President Mutharika said AGCOM is aimed at transforming the agricultural smallholder sub-sector from currently subsistence to commercial orientation.
“Malawi is now moving beyond subsistence agriculture into commercial agriculture.
“Our agriculture way of life has been growing food; let agriculture be our way life for creating new wealth,” he said, adding that through the project, farmers, through organized associations, will have access to financing, well-structured markets and improved feeder roads.
He said currently most Malawians do not have enough capital to invest in agriculture and those that are able to, do not have access to markets, apart from poor storage and processing systems and poor transportation network.
President Mutharika thanked the World Bank, through Country Representative, Greg Toulmin, for the loan, asking all stakeholders to put the funds to intended use “because we will have to pay back, eventually”.
Speaking earlier, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Kondwani Nankhumwa, said AGCOM is consistent the President’s vision of transforming Malawi from being mostly a consuming and importing to producing and exporting country.
“AGCOM is aimed at increasing productivity and diversifying both the food and export base of this country. In this regard, the main objective is to increase commercialization of agricultural value chain products.
“These agricultural value chain products are products of farms and agribusinesses, including crop, livestock, and fisheries products sold domestically or exported, with or without processing, depending on market requirements,” said Nankhumwa.
The project, according to the minister, is being implemented by supporting the integration of small-scale and emerging farmers into value chains by improving their capacity to finance and execute productivity-enhancing investments and respond to the requirements of end-markets and buyers (off-takers).
“In this regard, the small and medium scale farmers, agro-dealers and other input suppliers, aggregators and buyers (retailers, wholesalers, processors and exporters) are organized together into a ‘Productive Alliance’ (PA).
“Therefore, unlike other previous interventions, producers under AGCOM will strictly be producing for the markets with clear understanding of the market’s quality demands and ready off-takers to absorb what is produced,” said Nankhumwa.
He said AGCOM will train and build smallholder associations into vibrant cooperatives in order to establish and enforce a business mindset.
Nankhumwa said implementation of the project has already started and there is good progress so far.
“With leadership from my ministry together with support from other ministries such as Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development and other stakeholders such as Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI), Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM), CISANET and Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS), the AGCOM Project Implementation Unit has managed to put in place all systems that are supporting the establishment of the Productive Alliances,” he said.
Earlier, Nankhumwa, who is also Leader of Government Business in Malawi Parliament, condemned acts of violence that have accompanied what were supposed to be ‘peaceful demonstrations’, saying such acts were derailing President Mutharika’s efforts to develop the country.
He cited various development projects that the President has championed, including a superb road network, but said all this is being destroyed by irresponsible citizens acting in the name of peaceful demonstrations.
“But I can assure Your Excellency that all this storm shall calm down and we shall prosper, as a nation, in the name of the almighty God,” he said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :