Agriculture drives Malawi’s economy and supports wide swathes of the country’s rural population. But, its agriculture exports have room to grow.
According to the International Trade Centre, Malawi has untapped export potential amounting to US$298.2 million.
Seeing opportunity there, the Malawi Investment and Trade Centre (MITC) is working with businesses to access new markets and find buyers for the country’s harvests, thereby improving incomes for rural farmers and creating new employment opportunities.
One company they are working with that is seeing success is local Malawi business AFMAK.
AFMAK sells Malawi products like rice, beans and chili peppers produced by partner farmers, and has established markets in the UAE, Zimbabwe and Tanzania, to name a few. Following a visit to South Africa to scope out potential new markets, supported by MITC’s partnership with the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), AFMAK has exported an additional 240,000 tonnes of beans.
“We managed to establish market linkages with some buyers in South Africa. Previously we would go to countries like South Africa to look for markets but without any success, but after going there under MITC through the EIF project we have managed to make headway in penetrating the South African market,” said AFMAK Managing Director Pilira Matondo.
More markets means more job opportunities with AFMAK, and the company currently employs 35 women who sort produce from the farm and ready it for export.
“Through my earnings from the part-time employment I am now able to provide food for my home as well as expand my farming business. I have ventured into pig production and currently I own eight pigs,” said part-time worker Dalesi Zalewa.
The 50-year-old widow has seven children, and uses her income to support her family and her venture into animal husbandry.
Another part-timer is Ellen Biston, who has a small business but works at AFMAK for much-needed additional money.
“It was really hard for me to support my family before joining this group. But now I am able to take care of my kids with the little that I get from this job. I am really grateful for this opportunity,” she said.
On the flip side, MITC is working to develop Malawi’s businesses so they are ready to export, including through a recent seminar with 100 local companies.
“The goal is to assist export ready and emerging exporters on the right and effective way to work out competitive export pricing and develop pricing strategies for their targeted export markets. Additionally, businesses will understand how an export contract is drawn and negotiated,” said MITC CEO Clement Kumbemba.
With the establishment of a working space in Tete, Mozambique that is also a Malawi consular office, MITC, with the support of EIF, has also removed some potential barriers for businesses their neighbors.
The export possibilities are there, and efforts like MITC’s across Malawi’s trade spectrum are doing the groundwork so the country’s businesses can continue to grow.