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Perishable crop farmers opting for contract farming

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Some farmers in Thyolo District have raised complaints over lack of proper markets to sell perishable farm produce opting for contract farming.

One of the farmers, Dicksray Milli, said they are capable of producing more crops but poor prices remain a drawback on their efforts.

He said there is need to promote contract farming for perishables, observing that the unavailability of such arrangements results in markets being flooded with one type of produce.

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He is one of the farmers at Tigwirane Manja Scheme in William Village, Thyolo District, which spreads over a three-hectare land.

“Apart from lack of farm inputs, absence of proper markets is hampering us the full realisation of profits. For many years, we have been struggling to earn more money through irrigation farming due to the reasons in question,” he said.

He said if schemes like his had guaranteed markets, emphasis on irrigation farming would have been justified.

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The scheme, which has about 55 farmers, has the capacity to help farmers grow and harvest twice or thrice a year.

But who holds the key to the maximisation of profits through irrigation farming? Member of Parliament for the area, Evance Kaduya said he will start engaging hotels and other food buyers to collaborate with the farmers.

“If people who sent me to Parliament have raised an issue, I have to follow it up and do something. The issue here is to do with guaranteed market structures. In the first place, I introduced to them a scheme where they are growing maize and vegetables. The concern they are raising is really true and my immediate intervention would be to engage companies who would be capable of buying the produce directly from the farmers,” he said.

Thyolo District Extension Development Officer, Keith Msosa, acknowledges that perishable crops need to have readily available markets.

He however says the issue of contract farming for perishables is not an easy one

He said their office will try engage stakeholders in the agriculture sector to see how they can together work out on the concern.

Currently, Tigwirane Manja Scheme has crops such as tomatoes, maize and vegetables.

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