As the rain season draws near, Malawi has an opportunity to address its economic problems through farming as agriculture remains the key to Malawi’s economic well-being.
With favourable forecasts for rains from the Department of Climate Change and Metrological Services, the next coming farming season could be what Malawi needed since the Cashgate of 2013 which resulted in massive donors’ withdrawal of aid from the country.
To make matters worse, the subsequent years 2014 and 2015 saw Malawi being hit hard by natural disasters in the form of floods and drought.
If the rains indeed can come normally this year, Malawi could finally find some answers to its economic problems as improved agricultural production always results in a positive economic environment in the country.
Reduced maize prices will lead into subdued inflation that could provide the Central Bank with some space for the much-needed adjustment of the interest rates to affordable levels.
Good tobacco, tea, cotton and sugar crops also come with their positives in the form of better foreign exchange earnings for the country.
However, with significantly scaled-down aid from donors, even maximum crop sizes in tobacco, tea, cotton and sugar cannot earn Malawi enough foreign exchange to meet the country’s demand. Malawi still needs additional sources of foreign exchange to cover the huge hole left by donors. This is where legumes and grain come in.
Increased production of crops such as pigeon peas, soya, groundnuts, rice, beans and sunflower could ably help Malawi earn additional foreign exchange and boost its reserves.
The production of these crops also provides many individual Malawians with a means through which they can directly contribute to the recovery of the economy.
The cultivation of crops such as pigeon peas, soya, groundnuts, rice beans and sunflower does not require any sophistication. They are also generally low-input crops that do not need fertiliser and other costly inputs. And some of these crops can be grown together with maize, hence demanding no additional land for their production.
Traditional rural farmers can, therefore, easily venture into the production of these crops to boost their revenue. Urban dwellers can also easily find additional means of earning income through the production of these crops on rented land near the cities or at their home villages.
By doing that, the farmers will be helping Malawi increase its foreign exchange earnings, boost reserves and stabilise the economy. This is because large-scale production of the crops will attract international buyers who normally like dealing with suppliers who have large volumes of commodities.
One of the biggest challenges facing Malawi’s commodities market is lack of enough volumes to meet customer demands. There are so many international buyers of these crops who avoid Malawi because of its persistent failure to supply adequate quantities when orders are placed.
It is, therefore, important for Malawi to start producing the legume and grain crops in large quantities as that is what attracts not only buyers but also good prices. Buyers are usually willing to offer good prices to suppliers with huge quantities as that helps them reduce logistical costs that come when they have to source commodity from various sources.
The government’s National Export Strategy already stipulates the need for Malawi to increase the production of other export crops other than tobacco, cotton, tea and sugar. Legumes and grain are some of the crops that are also considered as alternatives to the traditional export commodities.
The production of pigeon peas, soya, groundnuts, beans, rice, sunflower and other such crops, therefore, presents many individual Malawians with an opportunity to go beyond pointing fingers at those in authority for their failure to find means of recovering the economy.
Venturing into the production of these crops on commercial scale will go a long way in boosting national production levels, thereby attracting big international buyers who shall come with United States dollars which Malawi desperately needs to boost its foreign exchange reserves and stabilise the Malawi kwacha.
And the time for doing that is now as this is when preparation of gardens for the cultivation of crops for rain-fed farming is done. Let us all get to work on the land and help in the salvaging of the economy so that come the same time next year, we shall be singing a different song on Malawi’s economy.
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