By Taonga Sabola:
Malawi is this year expected to lose K100 billion in post-harvest losses in maize alone, figures from Farmers Organisation Limited (FOL) have shown.
The K100 billion projected loss is an equivalent of 14 percent of the 2018/19 national budget projected at K1.429 trillion.
The revelation comes at a time second round crop estimates by the Ministry of Agriculture have indicated that Malawi will harvest a total of 3.35 million metric tonnes of maize this year.
Currently, post-harvest losses in Malawi are seen at 25 percent.
On Monday, the Ministry of Agriculture set K150 per kg as the minimum price for maize this year.
“Going by research findings, the country is bound to lose 840,000 metric tonnes of the projected maize production due to post-harvest losses. At the current prices, this loss translates to over K100 billion.
“This loss should be a concern to government and stakeholders in agriculture as it comes on the back of the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) which injected improved inputs into the smallholder farming sector,” FOL National Sales and Marketing Manager, Ronald Chilumpha, said Wednesday.
He said, in addition to the volumetric loss, quality and food safety issues would aggravate the postharvest losses.
“Produce of poor quality arising from post-harvest handling does not fetch good prices on the market. It is even more difficult to find an international market for poor quality produce. Health risks such as kidney and liver failure may result from consuming food laced with aflatoxins.
“The impact of the anticipated post-harvest losses on the national economy can be disastrous considering that maize is a key crop to our economy. Maize, together with other food stuffs, constitutes around 45.2 percent of the Consumer Price Index,” he said.
Chilumpha said the post-harvest losses could be mitigated by improving post-harvest practices. This, he said, calls for concerted efforts by stakeholders, especially farmers who are at the front line.
He said his organisation has various solutions, for small-scale as well as large scale farmers and grain traders which provide protection to grains for over nine months.
“It is our plea to government to consider extending the Fisp programme to include grain protection products. Otherwise inputs provided under the Fisp will not deliver the full benefit to the nation due to post-harvest losses. This call also goes to non-governmental organisations which support farmers in crop production,” he said.
While acknowledging that the problem of post-harvest losses was a serious in Malawi, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Grey Nyandule Phiri, Wednesday said Capital Hill is putting in place measures to reduce the damage.
Phiri said, among others, the ministry is encouraging farmers to take good care of their harvests by applying the right chemicals as well as using Pics bags which help minimise postharvest losses.
During the 2018/19 fiscal year, government allocated K41.3 billion to the Fisp.