When Mercedes Benz makes an impression in agriculture
Malawians would usually associate Mercedes Benz with the luxurious saloon cars we all dream to drive. Few would know that there are also Mercedes Benz trucks and buses. Probably only a handful may be aware that there are also Mercedes Benz farming vehicles.
Ahead of the International Automobile Exhibition (IAA) Commercial Vehicles, which starts in Hanover, Germany on Thursday this week, the agricultural version of the Mercedes Benz Unimog has successfully completed the 2016 PowerMix test of the German Agricultural Association, certifying it as the best working vehicle for farmers.
The comprehensive functional value testing of agricultural towing and utility vehicles is based on independent assessment criteria and provides scientifically proven, objective and reproducible measurement results to promote innovations in farming equipment manufacturing among vehicle makers around the world.
The Mercedes Benz Unimog is one of the versatile vehicles expected to attract attention at the IAA Commercial Vehicles, the largest exhibition for trucks and buses in the world.
Being a country that is dependent on agriculture for its economy, does Malawi have policies that promote business in farm mechanisation equipment? Can Malawian farmers find farming equipment such as tractors, ploughs, harrows, seeders, fertiliser spreaders, combine harvesters and others easily and at affordable prices.
Government policies and incentives are critical if an increased number of farmers can start mechanising their production through adoption of farming equipment such as tractors.
Duty waivers on farming equipment can encourage motor vehicle dealers to import and market farming equipment on an increased scale, knowing that prices without taxes would make the machines more affordable to an increased number of farmers.
The government needs to come up with policies that will build the capacity of farmers to invest in volumes of production and increase yield per unit area.
In any case, if a good number of Malawians are able to buy luxurious vehicles such as the Mercedes Benz E-class models, what can, for example, stop them from acquiring Mercedes Benz farming vehicles?
Farm mechanisation is critical to commercialisation of agriculture as it improves efficiency and productivity by reducing labour costs while enabling the farmer to grow large volumes of crops through extensive cultivation of land.
Commercialisation of agriculture is key to the transformation of the sector to make it more vibrant and supportive to the economy.
Other African countries like neighbouring Zambia never became a middle-income economy until they commercialised their agriculture despite relying on copper for their economic well-being. Nigeria became Africa’s strongest economy when they reinvested in agriculture while Zimbabwe’s economy collapsed after disrupting the agriculture sector with land issues although they have lots of diamonds.
Farming is a volume business as one needs to produce in large quantities to attract buyers and make significant earnings from farming. Volumes can be achieved through both attainment of high yields per hectare as well as availability of large pieces of land for farming.
And it is the size of the land that makes mechanisation viable as acquiring a tractor for use on a small piece of land would be expensive and inefficient.
Using tenants on the farm is an archaic system and makes our farmers uncompetitive compared to their counterparts using tractors and many other farm machineries for mass production at low cost of production per kilogramme.
Malawi needs to invest heavily in mechanisation as a labour-serving technology to become competitive in the region.
Malawi can attain economic development if the dreams of an increased number of people can be changed from wishing they could own a Mercedes Benz truck or tractor instead of a Mercedes Benz limousine they cannot even afford to maintain.
The commercial vehicles show in Germany should provide an opportunity for Malawian motor dealers to explore how they can expand their farming equipment dealerships in addition to the luxurious vehicles they already supply to the country.
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