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Thumbs up Chombe

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Chombe Foods has recently re-launched its Super Faya and Kilombero rice line of production, with new packaging and a fresh marketing drive promoting the product.

It was not until last weekend when I had an opportunity to see and sample the product. I actually went to the supermarket to buy rice but I did not have a particular brand which I wanted. My only prior preference was that the rice had to be Malawian, regardless of the brand.

To my surprise, the supermarket I went to had more foreign brands. The only two Malawian brands I first noticed were not attractively packaged, with just a basic clear plastic pack and the simplest labelling on them.

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I was about to leave the shop to try another one when I noticed the words “Chombe” on some beautiful packets of rice which initially looked foreign to me. I then remembered hearing about Chombe rice being rebranded with new packaging. Finally, I was happy to find a type of Malawian rice I liked as I picked a packet of the new Chombe rice, without hesitation.

Indeed, Chombe has taken Malawi’s rice business to a new level with the new packaging of its Super Faya and Kilombero brands. Malawi can probably once again confidently reclaim its position on the export market with a product that has been packed and branded to international standard.

It is a well-known fact that Malawi’s rice has a unique taste and aroma that makes it a sought-after product on the regional market. However, the rice is now nowhere to be seen beyond the Malawi borders.

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Recently, a study by a British-funded agency revealed that Malawi’s rice was struggling on the international market because of various problems, among them, poor packaging and high prices, compared to brands from other parts of the world such as China.

The rebranded Chombe rice could, therefore, be a fresh opportunity for Malawi to get back on the markets in Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and others as it addresses one of the key problems that made Malawi’s rice unattractive internationally.

With good marketing, even the foreign brands that are increasingly dominating the shelves of local shops should start feeling the heat and eventually disappear as the only thing that made them better than our own rice was the packaging. Malawi’s Kilombero is superior when it comes to taste and aroma.

More companies in Malawi should be encouraged to do the same with rice and other commodities that can be exported in processed form from the country. Chombe Foods, for example, has previously been able to successfully process and export tea and peanuts in well-branded packages.

Not long ago, Tamb a l a – b r a n d e d peanuts were a pride of Malawi and used to be one of the country’s well-known export products before it disappeared even from local shops. The rejuvenation of the company as seen from the new rice brand, therefore, raises new hope about the return of Tambala peanuts on the market.

Malawi can successfully diversify its exports through agriculture in addition to tobacco but this requires aggressiveness and a new way of doing things among relevant players in the country.

One way through which Malawi can break new grounds on international markets is value addition of its agricultural exports. Instead of exporting rice, beans, pigeon peas, groundnuts, soya and others in raw form, let us starting processing and shipping them as finished, ready-to-use products.

Attractive packaging is key when it comes to exports of processed products as that is one of the factors that makes products appealing to consumers in the supermarkets.

Exports of finished products will also make it possible for the country to beat volatile prices that usually affect raw commodities on the international markets. Finished products are always exported at premium prices that are way higher than those of raw materials.

Value addition enables exporters to earn more from fewer products. It also creates jobs locally and provides more benefits to the economy through the value-chain. As they say, exporting raw commodities is as good as exporting job opportunities as well. Malawi needs to find a way of curtailing exports of the scarce jobs.

Once again, congratulations to Chombe Foods on taking Malawi’s Kilombero rice to new heights.

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