Stakeholders move to boost rice exports
The African Institute of Corporate Citizenship (AICC) has said Malawi has potential to realise more foreign exchange earnings from rise farming.
AICC Chief Executive Officer Driana Lwanda was speaking in Lilongwe on Thursday on the sidelines of the 2023 Rice Marketing Conference.
According to Lwanda, there is growing demand for Malawi rice on the international market due to its aromatic characteristics.
“We, as a country, have depended on one specific commodity, tobacco, for our export earnings. But rice has the potential as far as bringing foreign earnings is concerned.
“The different challenges that we are facing in rice as well as the attention we are not giving to the rice subsector is what is making it difficult for it to bring enough foreign earnings into the country,” Lwanda said.
She noted that it is unfortunate that Malawi has concentrated on the domestic market, adding that there is a need for Malawi to refocus its concentration and start looking at rice as an export commodity.
Currently, Malawi has potential to grow rice on 500,000 hectares but is only able to cultivate on 100,000 hectares.
In addition, productivity remains low, hovering between one and two tonnes per hectare, as compared to eight hectares in other countries.
Rice Development Trust Vice Chairperson Ibrahim Benesi said the marketing of rice in Malawi continues to be hampered by a number of factors, chief of which is lack of a structured market system.
According to Benesi, the majority of rice farmers does not have potential viable markets for their rice and rely on seasonal vendors and traders.
“About 95 percent of smallholder rice producers sell their rice to local traders. As such, the farmers are limited, in terms of the price gains, due to their inability to benefit from higher prices offered by the large scale millers.
“It is also known that about 74 percent of rice producers sell un-milled rice (paddy) while the remainder is milled by smallholder farmers themselves who sell it with a degree of value addition. In some cases, farmers sell rice to their association or cooperative which markets the rice for them. This helps farmers attain better prices,” Benesi said.
He observed that another issue that is faced in rice marketing is the minimal storage capacity among smallholders, hampering farmers from taking advantage of seasonal price hikes.
As a result, the rice farmers end up being the price-takers as they enter the market at the lowest point in the seasonal price.
“This situation of immediate post-harvest crop sales is also unhelpful for processors as they have to find capital to purchase in bulk, within a short time of the season, rather than make purchases at intervals throughout the season,” Benesi said.
Furthermore, Benesi said there is also a challenge of limited information sharing between rice producers and traders as well as processors.
“Rice farmers at times produce without knowing the varieties and quantities demanded by traders and processors. The traders and processors are not forthcoming with the volumes and quantities demanded by the market,” Benesi said.
Hara Rice Cooperative Chairperson Andy Nyirenda described the conference as critical in boosting the rice subsector in the country.
According to Nyirenda, the conference will help in linking growers to buyers of rice.