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Low production hurts rice sector

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Following revelations from a report that Malawi’s current rice production does not meet even the demand of the domestic market, an agriculturalist has 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 a report giving the outlook of rice production in the country in the last six months released earlier this week, 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 1500 and 2,000 kilogrammes per hectare.

Smallholder incomes are reduced as a result because farmers are growing less rice than the potential.

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“Smallholder rice productivity and consumption is extremely low 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,” the report reads in part.

Commenting, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Felix Jumbe, 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.

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“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.

The rice Market in Malawi is dominated by middlemen or vendors as there is no structured market for the commodity.

Further compounding this problem is inadequate storage and milling facilities which forces smallholder farmers, who are the major producers, to sell their rice when it is un-milled hence fail to negotiate for better prices as there is no degree of value- addition to their rice.

AICC says in the absence of price controlling mechanisms to enforce marketing activities, vendors are at liberty to set buying prices at their liking.

As this is happening, the Chartered Institute of Marketers Malawi chapter is considering Kilombero among products to use in its Brand Malawi campaign which is aimed at promoting Malawi as a viable business brand to the world.

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