By Imam Wali:
Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (Apra) has identified land, low productivity and poor marketing as some of the factors hampering commercialisation in Malawi’s agriculture sector.
These are some of the findings after the institution conducted research in Southern African Development Community (Sadc) countries.
Spanning over 10 years, the research has revealed that, compared to other Sadc countries, Malawi has been lagging behind.
APRA categorised smallholder farmers into stepping out, stepping in, stepping up, those that are hanging in and those that are dropping out.
According to APRA Team Leader Professor Blessings Chinsinga, agriculture commercialisation for smallholder farmers in the country is possible but is constrained by the nature of the agriculture sector.
He was speaking on Tuesday during presentation of research findings to stakeholders in Lilongwe.
“Suddenly, we are not performing that well. In fact, we are the least performing country and this has to do with the problem of land availability; land per capita in this country is very limited comparing to neighbouring countries.
“In addition to that, we are unable to increase production because most of our farmers depend on subsidy and this means they are unable to purchase inputs on their own. Finally, marketing is another major problem as our Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation is not reliable,” he said.
Chinsinga further urged the government to carefully study the rural population because there is a tendency to treat it as a homogeneous group.
“However, they are in different categories and these categories have different needs and, basically, results of the study indicate that farmers have the potential to venture into commercialisation,” he said.
Agricultura list Tamani Nkhono- Mvula, speaking in an interview, said the country had focused much on orientation other than commercialisation.
“The other issue which is also important is the whole issue of orientation of our production. We have oriented our production mainly towards subsistence farming and not commercialisation. AIP [Affordable Inputs Programme] is a huge investment in the agriculture sector but much of it is going towards subsistence farming and food security,” he said.