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Malawi needs to shift from subsistence to commercial farming: President

Malawis President Lazarus Chakwera has urged the country to transition from largely subsistence farming to industrialised commercial farming, in order to meet the goal of making the country food-sufficient by 2030

While speaking to VOA News, Chakwera said it is concerning that 80% of farmers in Malawi are small-scale farmers while the country has vast resources that could transform it into a commercial farming nation.

"Most of the jobs are created in the farming sector. Our growth domestic product, GDP, exports and forex earnings are receiving its greatest boost from this sector. It is this sector whose success will give us the capacity to diversify our economy and make it more flexible and sustainable. The more the farmers engage in high value agriculture and add value to their products, the more they will see their profit margin rise,” Chakwera said.

The president added that his emphasis on agriculture does not mean that he does not want Malawi to flourish in tourism, mining and telecommunication. "It is just that at this stage of our nation’s development, making our agriculture sector a success is the first step to expanding our economy," he said. 

Malawi is making efforts to transform its agriculture sector, he added, and that includes the government's emphasis on moving from largely rain-fed agriculture to irrigation farming. "As a case in point, in the 2021/2022 national budget, import duty on agriculture machinery was waived, precisely to make irrigation equipment more affordable and accessible. In fact, our entire economic policy framework is driven by our unapologetic desire to build an agriculture sector of the future," he said.

However, farmers are skeptical about the president's words. They said commercialised farming in Malawi can only be possible if banks are more flexible with farmers. Masauko Kabapha, who owns the Chimwemwe farm in Kasungu District in central Malawi said, “Commercial farming in Malawi is impossible, he said, because farming equipment and machinery are too expensive for a small farmer, and getting a loan is difficult because banks ask for collateral, which most farmers cannot manage.

Kabapha suggested the government enact policies to restrain commercial banks from asking for collateral.