Mismatch between supply and demand is one of the factors stakeholders in the pigeon peas value chain have identified as contributing to failure by the country to break through on the international market despite Malawi being among the leading producers of pigeon peas in Africa.
The country’s overreliance on one market for exports of its pigeon peas even though other markets are available in the region has also contributed to low earnings pigeon peas farmers get from the crop and resulting low export earnings for the country.
Malawi accounts for about six percent of the total production of pigeon peas on the continent followed by Kenya and Uganda at two percent and then Tanzania at 0.8 percent 25 percent of the pigeon peas produced in Malawi are exported, making pigeon peas a potential cash crop for the country following challenges facing tobacco marketing.
But despite its importance, the pigeon peas value chain has been facing several challenges which limit the development of the industry.
This year for instance, pigeon pea prices have continued to tumble, with the commodity now selling at as low as K200 per kilogramme in some areas.
Concerned with the market trends, the African Institute of Corporate Citizenship (AICC) called stakeholders in the pigeon peas value chain to a meeting in Blantyre to discuss the pricing challenges and find solutions to the problem.
The meeting found that Malawi is growing a variety of pigeon peas whose demand on the international market has been declining over the years. Malawi grows red pigeon peas but the demand on international markets is for white pigeon peas.
AICC Chief Executive Officer, Felix Lombe, said there is need for farmers in the sector to become more organised and work in groups to eliminate middlemen who are controlling the sector.
“Farmers are not organised. Vendors aggregate farmers themselves. The presence of too many middlemen in the value chain works to the disadvantage of farmers,” he said.
Malawi exports most of her pigeon peas to India and Programme Officer at the East African Grain Control, Taziona Chigwe, said overreliance on the Indian market has also contributed to failure by the country to make the most out of the crop.
“The problem is that we are not speaking to each other. We can link our farmers to our members in the other countries where we have a presence and some of those countries are offering better prices for pigeon peas than India,”’Chigwe said.
Nandolo Farmers Association Chairperson, Susan Chimbayo, said her association is working with farmers to sensitise them on the market requirements
Malawi is soon expected to sign a memorandum of understanding with India, a deal which will ensure a steady market for Malawi’s pigeon peas.