Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Minister, Kondwani Nankhumwa, has said he is personally committed to ensuring that Malawian smallholder tea farmers earn better prices than what they are currently getting from tea companies.
“I am deeply concerned with the current price, which is K121.30 per kilogram. This price is exploitive, abusive and utterly unfair,” said Nankhumwa when he undertook a supervisory visit to banana and smallholder tea groups in Mulanje and Thyolo on Wednesday, September 18, 2019.
The Minister said he will soon be convening a consultative meeting between government and smallholder farmers on the one hand and the tea companies on the other “to see how best we can, together, improve the tea price.”
He said: “As Minister of Agriculture, I will ensure that we create of motivating environment for our smallholder tea farmers; where they are able to see handsome rewards for their work; where they smile all the way to the bank knowing they will be able to afford food, school fees and other basic life necessities.”
The trip, which lasted for the entire day, first took the minister to Bvumbwe Agriculture Research Station where he visited banana nurseries and interacted with officers.
Bvumbwe and other research stations are undertaking propagation of banana through tissue culture and macro propagation under the ASWAP SP II and KULIMA projects. Through these projects, clean banana planting materials are introduced to farmers while the existing local germplasm are collected, screened, multiplied and conserved.
Malawi is currently facing a serious threat of dwindling banana production due to the Banana Bunchy Top disease (BBTD). BBTD is one of the most devastating diseases of banana, which seriously affects smallholder farmers. BBTD, which is caused by banana bunchy top virus (BBTV), produces erect, narrow, short brittle leaves with yellow borders and typical dark green streaks on the leaves.
By the year 2002, it was estimated that over 135,000 hectares of bananas were grown in Malawi, with 230,000 tons produced per annum. Currently, less than 50,803 hectares of bananas are grown with an estimated yield of 1.7 tons per hectare.
When he interacted with Chibwana, Nachipere South-West in Thyolo, and Mgona and Thuchila banana communities in Mulanje, Nankhumwa assured smallholder banana farmers that government is deeply committed to reviving the banana industry in Malawi through the provision of clean planting material for increased production and household incomes.
In Malawi, banana is one of the most important fruits available. It is ranked first amongst fruits in the country and sixth after maize, rice, groundnuts, vegetables and beans, in that order, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. Bananas form an important nutritional component in the diets of many Malawians as they are a source of carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals to Malawians.
Bananas produce fruits throughout the year as such, they bridge the hunger and income gap between crop harvests. Its production is hindered by pests and diseases, lack of clean planting material and decline in soil fertility, among other factors.
During the daylong tour, Nankhumwa also interacted with tea farmers at Mtendere village, Maonga section in Thyolo Centre EPA. Mtendere Tea and Horticulture Cooperative and Msuwazi Tea Growers Trust representatives in the Maonga section presented their grievances to the minister, emphasizing on the low tea prices.
Nankhumwa also visited Gawanya village, Nande section, Boma EPA in Mulanje district to meet smallholder tea farmers, promising positive reforms in the tea industry.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :