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Revitalise agriculture sector, institute urges

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Ulemu Chilapondwa

Independent policy think-tank, Mwapata Institute, says the country’s agriculture sector continues facing myriad challenges which require fresh policy direction to address.

It says a rejig of the agriculture supply chain could help the sector regain its charm to remain afloat as Malawi economic backbone.

The institute conducted studies whose results show that Malawi is becoming a net food importer despite being touted as agrarian.

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On Tuesday, the institute engaged members of Agriculture, Trade and Natural Resources and Climate Change committees of Parliament, advocating a shift in agriculture-related policy direction.

Mwapata Institute acting Executive Director William Chadza said the institute needed to collaborate with Parliament in its drive to have a fresh approach to agricultural production in the country.

“Using the key findings from our research, we should be able to provide evidence, which they [Parliament] can put to good use in terms of debates during the formulation of various pieces of legislation,” Chadza said.

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Speaking in an interview on the sidelines, Agriculture Transformation Institute Country Director Candida Nakhumwa said the sector has vast capacity.

She said drawing fresh policies to govern the sector would help in its revitalisation.

“When we unpack what we are importing—like serials, animal and vegetable fats, and many other things—it just shows that there is demand. We are exporting raw commodities and importing them once processed. We can do better,” Nakhumwa said.

Agriculture Committee Chairperson Ulemu Chilapondwa said in a separate interview that the country needed to change its approach to agriculture.

He said the committee was pushing for commercialisation of the sector which would help to blossom the local manufacturing industry.

“We are losing a lot of foreign exchange on issues that could have been prevented if we put in place policies and mechanisms to add value to the products that we do produce in Malawi,” he said.

Mwapata Institute is affiliated to the National Planning Commission and the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Malawi is an agrarian economy, with about 80 percent of the population living in rural areas.

For decades, agriculture has been standing out as the single largest sector in the national economy.

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