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Government withdraws mega farms advert

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By Wezzie Gausi:

In a development that has surprised some Malawians, the government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, Tuesday withdrew the advert in which it invited private sector players to express interest in Mega Farms.

Tuesday morning, some Malawians took to social media, doubting the seriousness of the government on the matter.

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But Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson Gracian Lungu said the ministry has not made a U-turn on the programme, saying there were some gaps in the initial call for interest that needed to be addressed.

Lungu said the advert was temporarily withdrawn to address some notable gaps in the call for interest.

“We wanted to have something that has well stipulated terms and conditions. We, as a ministry, are working on another call of interest which will be advertised soon,” Lungu said.

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According to an invitation for expression of interest to establish mega farms published in the local press, the ministry had identified 10,000 hectares of land in Nkhotakota and Mchinji districts to turn Dwambazi and Chimwamkango estates, respectively, into mega-farms.

The invitation indicated that the Dwambazi land will be used to raise beef cattle while the Chimwamkango land will be used to grow valuable crops.

Agriculture policy experts have since asked the Ministry of Agriculture to do proper consultations and engagements on mega farms if the venture is to materialise.

One of the experts, Leonard Chimwaza, said the ministry has done the right thing to withdraw the expression of interest.

He said the ministry should start conducting engagements with relevant institutions on how best the mega farms will be operating.

“We understand that the ministry is working under a directive by the President [Lazarus Chakwera] but the issue of mega farms needs joint ideas. They, as the government, cannot handle the issue on its own. They will need to sit down and do consultations.

“So, we need not to hurry on the issue of implementation as we need to have accurate information regarding the implementation of the mega farms [project]. The questions we need to ask are, do we have enough resources to run the farms? Do we have the mechanised machines? If the answer to those questions is ‘yes’, then we can roll out; otherwise there is no need to rush,” Chimwaza said.

Mega farms were part of the key promises that the Tonse Alliance made to Malawians in the run-up to the June 23 2020 court-ordered a presidential election.

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