Expert fears for agriculture sector

Post was last updated: July 18, 2018

BY CHIMWEMWE MANGAZI:

PHIRI – Government is fully committed

An expert has blamed agriculture sector’s dwindling input to economy on lack of political will among major factors.

South Africa-based Professor Lovemore Mbigi made the observation in Lilongwe on Monday when delivering a keynote address at the inaugural Agri-Business Conference organised by the Bankers Association of Malawi (Bam).

Agriculture is the backbone of the Malawi economy but misfortunes have continued to dog the economy, with its input to Gross Domestic Product reportedly dwindling in the recent past.

Addressing delegates on the opening day of the conference, Mbigi said most African governments, Malawi inclusive, fail on policy implementation, as authorities show less interest to improve the sector.

“There has to be political will to make it happen because any policy implementation will meet constraints and obstacles.

“There is also too much dependence on rainfall, so it is important to leverage the lake as a blessing,” Mbigi said.

He suggested that Malawi should implement a Development State Model, where the government has an arm that fully participates in agriculture production and every other process in value addition.

He cited Botswana, Mauritius, China, Malaysia and Singapore among model countries.

“A developmental state is one where the government takes the lead in economic development; it is not a spectator, waiting for foreign investors. The government is both a treasurer and an entrepreneur,” Mbigi said.

Bankers Association of Malawi (Bam) President, Paul Guta, concurred with Mbigi, saying the government could be involved through the production chain.

He said the association brought together key stakeholders to brainstorm measures of revamping the sector’s input to the economy.

“Until people learn to jointly address common challenges, any chance of coming up with solutions would be difficult,” Guta said.

Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Irrigation and Water Development, Grey Nyandule Phiri, said the government was fully committed to improving the sector.

He cited the National Agriculture Investment Plan among key blueprints crafted to improve the sector.

Economic commentators have been calling for diversification of the country’s cropping system away from tobacco to develop other crops, such as pulses, which have high demand in some international markets.

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