Agriculture Policy Research in Africa (APRA), which aims to engage in policy advocacy on sustainable smallholder agricultural commercialization, is focusing on reviving groundnuts as one of the leading cash and export crops which can rake in millions of dollars to the national pulse.
“We chose the crop as a case study because it used to be one of the leading export crops in the past but that is not the case now,” Apra Malawi’s team leader, Dr. Blessings Chinsinga told journalists recently.
Agriculture remains the country’s economic main stay with over 80 percent of the population engaged in agriculture as smallholder farmers and contributing over 35 percent to the national income.
“We want to use groundnuts to understand the dynamics of agricultural commercialization so that with that understanding we can engage with policy makers so that we put in place an enabling environment that would help to revive groundnuts as one of the leading cash crops,” said Chinsinga at a workshop on agriculture commercialization.
The workshop, which attracted agriculture research scientists, government officials from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and journalists, was aimed at equipping the media on how they can interpret government policies, allocation of budget resources to agriculture in line with agricultural commercialization.
Participants to Apra's workshop at Ufulu Gardens in Lilongwe
Chinsinga said Malawi can bolster its economic standing if gaps in agriculture commercialization are closed and there’s strong political will to realise the goal.
He said: “We are hoping that through the research that we are doing we will not just expose new insights but we will also understand how we can create an implementation framework that Government would use in order to ensure that what is prescribed in policies is actually translated into practice.”
The production of groundnuts has had an upward trend from 275,000 MT in 2009 to 380,000 MT in 2013.
The increase can be attributed to the adoption of new varieties by the smallholders. Malawi has excess production capacity as it is only depending on rain fed system. If this capacity can be exploited there will be excess supply capacity.
In 2018, the International Trade Center in Geneva, Switzerland, published a report titled “Exploring Malawi’s Export Potential’ which in part indicated that groundnuts were a leading cash crop in pulses category with exports totaling K20.8 billion ($28.4 million).
The report also showed that groundnuts is mainly shipped to regional partners: United Republic of Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa and account for 97% of all pulses exports.
In the 2019-2020 National Budget, the agriculture sector has been allocated the second largest share amounting to K150 billion out of K1.7 trillion. In part this allocation is intended to invigorate agriculture commercialization.
Finance Minister Joseph Mwanamvekha in the 2019-2020 financial year budget said under agriculture commercialization project, Government will intensify efforts to ensure adoption of climate smart agriculture, irrigation and large scale farming for the production of export crops.
The crop has a potential to improve economic well being of farmers
“Government will provide an enabling environment for the establishment of efficient and vibrant structured markets for different crops such as rice, groundnuts and pulses, with proper export mandates. This will encourage farmers to start producing these crops in large quantities as they will be guaranteed availability of a market,’’ Mwanamvekha added.
APRA is implementing a five-year research programme in six focal countries, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Malawi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria with two additional secondary countries, Mozambique and Kenya.