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Food imports seen doubling

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Despite Malawi being touted as an agrarian economy, a recent report from the Malawi Agriculture Policy and Transformation Agenda (Mwapata) has shown that the value of food imports more than doubled between 1998 to 2018.

To cap it all, between 2015 and 2016 alone, food imports into Malawi increased by 64 percent, resulting in a deficit of K10.13 billion ($13.59 million) in 2016 and K10.86 billion ($14.58 million) in 2017.

According to the report, the increase in imports is a result of low agricultural production and productivity, changing diets and rising demand for processed foods, low manufacturing value addition and industrial sector competitiveness and Informal/unregulated food imports, among others.

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The institute suggests that, unless the problems are ironed out, Malawi would remain a predominantly importing nation.

“The continued reliance on food imports when agriculture is the backbone of the Malawian economy is paradoxical. There is an urgent need to put measures in place to address the constraints that have led to increased food imports as well as come up with strategies to boost domestic food production and agro-food industry competitiveness,” the report reads.

The firm suggests solutions such as increased agricultural productivity, improved the competitiveness of agri-food industries, promotion of the consumption of locally produced products, curb unregulated food products importation, and reform food aid to reduce market distortions, among others.

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Malawi’s economy is highly dependent on agriculture, exporting raw products, with unprocessed tobacco being the main export earner.

The recently launched National Transformation 2063 aims at turning the lower income nation into an upper middle income country by 2063.

The long-term development blueprint projects that the country would increase agricultural production and productivity for consumption and imports.

“Agriculture productivity and commercialization will produce and supply raw materials for industrial processing and healthy and nutritious food,” reads the agenda on agricultural transformation.

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