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Government challenged to link farmers and manufacturers

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Agriculture experts are imploring the government to link smallholder farmers to the industry which in turn will provide ready markets for produces if they are to contribute to the economy.

This, they say, can only be achieved if policies that would entice investments in value addition for various crops grown in Malawi are introduced.

The sentiments came out during the 13th Farmers Union Annual Congress and Policy Conference currently underway in Lilongwe.

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Delivering his keynote address, Zimbabwean-based, development analyst and strategist in Agriculture, Mandivamba Rukuni, stressed that Malawi will remain a poor country, if it continues to look for markets elsewhere other than create the markets locally.

He stressed that it is ironic that farmers are complaining on the ban imposed on exportation of maize when the country has a huge appetite for products made from the crop that have flooded the country’s supermarkets.

“What Malawi needs to do is to connect the smallholder farmers to the manufacturing industry to make vibrant the agriculture sector. If the nation will be able to expand the domestic market, issues of price disparities that we hear from the farmers will be taken care of, thereby growing the economy,” Rukuni said.

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He further urged the government to ensure that policies are reviewed to correspond with diversification needs.

Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Joseph Mwanamvekha, who was in attendance at the congress said the government has already initiated processes in reviewing some policies which will help protect farmers from exploitation.

He, however, called on all stakeholders in the sector to join hands and bang heads on how crop diversification can be attained, as it has become a tired topic on the future of the agriculture sector in the country.

“This is time to transform our agriculture but there are a number of things that need to be done, on the governance part, we need to come up with sound policies for instance ‘the seed’ policy, fertiliser policy but also we need to see that farmers use modern technologies for farming.

“We also need to find ready markets for the farmers. We are looking at establishing as many contract farming initiatives as possible, we want the farmer to take agriculture as a business,” Mwanamvekha said.

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