Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) has touted groundnuts as one key alternative to the struggling tobacco crop, calling government and other stakeholders in the agriculture sector to join hands in building a strong groundnut industry.
FUM Director of Research, Policy and Partnerships Dr. Candida Nakhumwa made the call recently in Lilongwe during a press conference aimed at sharing the general public about the outcome of the recent Georgia Peanut Tour, in the United States of America, which FUM formed part of the delegation.
The tour, which was facilitated by the UK Aid funded Malawi Oilseeds Sector Transformation (MOST) programme, was aimed at highlighting productive technologies in the groundnut sector that enhance yields and quality.
USA is the 3rd largest producer of peanuts in the world after China and India and $74 billion worth of Georgiaâ€™s agriculture industry contributes around 10 percent to the Georgiaâ€™s economy and Georgiaâ€™s agriculture economy alone represents approximately 18 times the size of Malawiâ€™s economy, estimated at around $4.2 billion.
Georgia produces half the USA peanut crop
â€œGroundnut is one of the alternative crops to tobacco; one of the value chains identified in the National Export Strategy under the diversification agenda. We need to diversify our domestic economy, whose main export commodity for years, tobacco, is facing huge resistance on the international scene emanating from the World Health Organisationâ€™s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC) guidelines,â€ said Nakhumwa.
According to Nakhumwa, while in Georgia, FUM learnt that there is a strong and effective communication and linkages between farmers, research institutions, extension services and buyers or processors, in addressing yield, quality and market issues.
In addition, Nakhumwa said there is also a strong link between the University of Georgia and the entire groundnut industry which she said has also contributed to the success f the sector over the years.
â€œThere is also a structured marketing of peanuts that is from the farm to the buying centre and there is also a centralised quality control at the buying centre. Processes include moisture content check, drying, shelling, grading, packaging and distribution to buyers/processors. This makes the whole industry a success,â€ she said.
She, however, requested government to avail technologies that enhance productivity and production citing the need to approve groundnut inoculants which she said would help boost yield per unit of land.
Groundnut inoculant is currently not available in Malawi but two companies- Agri Input Suppliers Limited (AISL) with their Nitrofix brand and BASF with their HiStick brand- have their products on trial in Malawi.
But Nakhumwa said unlike Malawi, Farmers in the rest of Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) have access to at least six different brands of inoculants and that companies have all shown an interest in making their yield enhancing technologies available to Malawian farmers.
Taking his turn, FUM President Alfred Kapichira-Banda, who was part of the delegation to Georgia, said groundnut has shown a huge potential in Potential to contributing more to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Job creation through on-farm as well as value addition activities, human health or nutrition, and to soil health.