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Government challenges SMEs on exports

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James Chiutsi

The Ministry of Trade and Industry has challenged private sector players, especially Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to be aggressive in seizing export opportunities.

In an interview, Principal Secretary in the ministry Christina Zakeyo Chatima said while the government has been harnessing and publicising opportunities arising from several preferential trade agreements and Memoranda of Understanding (MoU), the private sector interest has not been reassuring.

She said in most cases, supply capacity has been the main challenge.

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“The ministry would like to encourage private sector [players] to work together and explore joint supply of goods. Through the Mega farm project, we also expect enhanced productivity.

“For example, under the South Sudan MoU, deals can be explored by any member of the private sector. The government’s role was just to negotiate favourable market access for Malawi’s exports to Sudan,” Chatima said.

SME Chamber Executive Director James Chiutsi said there is a need for the government to manage the process better as exporting means management of a whole value chain, from research to the market.

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“We first need to ramp up our production capabilities, meaning managing the small scale farmers, through mega farms, value addition etc. This chain has not been systematically worked on. Otherwise we would have had stocks of produce in warehouses, rotting. We do not have the stocks,” Chiutsi said.

Chairperson of the National Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (Nasme) William Mwale said the government is not doing enough to mobilise farmers into cooperatives.

He said Capital Hill should provide the necessary information on export opportunities.

“Often times it is traders that engage in exports and not farmers. There is a need to create capacity on how SMEs can single-handedly establish links for exports in foreign markets,” Mwale said.

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