Some companies are misrepresenting Malawi’s aromatic Kilombero rice to push sales on the market and in the process breaching some of the provisions of the Competition and Fair Trading Act.
The offenders risk prosecution and if found guilty, they will be required to pay a fine of K500,000.
According to the Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC), most of the rice sold on the market is classified as “Kilombero” when in fact some of it may not necessarily be the long grained aromatic Kilombero rice brand.
In a statement, CFTC said to call any type of rice Kilombero, when it is not, is an act of product misrepresentation and is a clear violation of the Competition and Fair Trading Act which prohibits suppliers of goods and services from engaging in conduct that is likely to mislead the public as to the nature, price, availability, characteristics, suitability for a given purpose, quantity or quality of any products or service.
CFTC further said the law restrains traders from supplying any product which is likely to cause injury to health or physical harm to consumers, when properly used, or which does not comply with a consumer safety standard which has been prescribed under any written law.
This follows reports that the rice market has been compromised with fake “plastic rice” making its way into some African markets.
Last week, both the BBC and CNN reported that Nigerian authorities had seized 2.5 metric tonnes of reportedly fake rice during the holiday season not fit for human consumption.
The Chartered Institute of Marketers (CIM) Malawi Chapter identified Kilombero among the products to use in its Brand Malawi Campaign which is aimed at promoting Malawi as a viable business brand to the world.
But a report recently showed that Malawi’s current rice production does not meet even the demand of the domestic market and agriculturalists have blamed the situation on failure by the country to support irrigation farming and revive rice schemes which were key to rice production in the past.
In its outlook of rice production in the country released in October 2016, the African Institute of Corporate Citizenship (AICC) estimates that the average potential yield for Kilombero rice and Faya are between 4,000 and 5,000 kilogrammes per hectare but that farmers only achieve between 1,500 and 2,000 kilogrammes per hectare.
This makes smallholder rice productivity and consumption to be extremely lower in Malawi compared to its neighbouring countries.
“Rain-fed yields in Malawi are around 1,500-2,000 kilogramme per hactare, compared to 2,300 kilogramme per hectare in Zimbabwe and 4,900 kilogrammes in Kenya,” AICC said in the report.
Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Felix Jumbe, earlier said the statistics are not surprising as most rice schemes are operating at 50 percent of their full production capacity.
Jumbe further said in the absence of adequate support to encourage irrigation farming, it would be difficult for the country to boost rice production levels to compete well on the international market.
“Farmers in the schemes have no access to finance to buy fertiliser and use clean seed to maintain the aroma synonymous with Malawi rice,” he observed.