By Chimwemwe Mangazi:
Revenue from legumes exports has been decreasing in the past five years, figures from the International Trade Centre (ITC) Trade Map, an online trade database, show.
The data show that dried leguminous vegetables, raked in $15.8 million in 2018
The amount is lower than the $58.5 million the commodities raked in 2015.
In 2018, groundnuts raked in $15 million from $52 million realised in 2014, while Soya beans raked in $12.5 million in 2018 against $19.4 million earned in 2017.
This is coming at a time stakeholders in the agriculture sector are propagating crop diversification as tobacco, Malawi’s major export crop, is losing momentum in the wake of global anti-smoking campaign by the World Health Organisation and other bodies.
Agriculture expert, Tamani Nkhono-Mvula, said poor handling of crops in the field and after harvesting has been contributing to the rise of post-harvest losses.
“Main legumes that Malawi has been exporting are groundnuts and pigeon peas. In the 1980s, Malawi was one of main exporters to the European market but there has been a decline over time because of challenges of aflatoxins and we have lost much of that market. For pigeon peas, the main market was India and we lost that right there in India.
“We need to train our farmers to handle the crops during the entire production process. We have also seen that the Malawi Bureau of Standards has better machinery which can detect aflatoxin even before the products are exported. For the other leguminous crops we need to explore other markets,” Mvula said.
Economics Association of Malawi Executive Director, Maleka Thula, said Malawi should continue exploring altenative crops to tobacco.
He said it was high time Malawi considered economic diversification instead of sorely relying on agriculture.
“Diversification is key as it would help in expanding export base for the country, thereby contributing to sustainable economic growth. Besides, diversification would help cushion the economy from both domestic and external shocks, making it resilient.
“Also important could be need to diversify from the agriculture sector as this could be a pathway to enhancing manufacturing and an industrialised economy,” Thula said.
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