Lilongwe: Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism Henry Mussa on Saturday said cooperatives under Community Savings and Investment Promotion (COMSIP) are essential in the improvement of value addition to farm produce as well as creating job opportunities.
He made the remarks Saturday at Jenda in Mzimba when he officially opened Champhira COMSIP Cooperative Factory plant. The factory produces jam, juice and sauce from tomatoes through its fully mechanized MK34 million structure.
Mussa said a lot of Malawians are unemployed and that they do not have income generating activities.
This, he said, can be addressed by creating vibrant small and medium scale industries in various areas including value addition.
Amongst other activities, my ministry is also focusing on cooperatives so that there can be increase in value addition enterprises and [subsequent] job creation because most of the big companies cannot employ everyone.
Here is a living example where our women are now adding value to tomatoes grown in this area to produce jam, tomato sauce and juice. Not only are they creating worth for themselves, but they are also creating employment for others, said Mussa.
Champhira Cooperative has around 60 members, two of which are males and has employed seven people.
According to the minister, Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) was instructed to visit Champhira Cooperative to conduct product examination for certification.
However, Mussa said to sustain small and medium enterprises, there is need to provide markets for their products.
One of the ways to achieve this, according to the minister, was to embrace the Buy Malawi Strategy which government is advocating, saying there is no reason to import products while Malawi is producing equally, if not, much better quality products.
The problem is mindset change. For a long time, we have believed that imported products are better than those locally produced which is not true at all.
But with time, this will change. As a ministry, we are conducting awareness campaigns to inform Malawians and other people that there are numerous quality products made in Malawi that can be used both at household level and institutional level, said Mussa.
Champhira Cooperative was formed in 2004 as a savings and lending group but graduated into a Cooperative in 2008.
Chairperson for the cooperative, Victoria Nhlane, said livelihoods of the members have improved since transitioning into a cooperative and have since managed to send their children to schools and built houses.
However, she said market scarcity for their products is a big setback to their operations.
We have the capacity to produce more products but we are held back in doing so because of lack of markets. As such, we only produce a minimal quantity which we might be able to sell.
If we can be provided with markets, we will be able to increase our production quantities. In addition, we need further training and a vehicle for transportation of our products, said Nhlane.
The Champhira Cooperative Factory, which is one of the many cooperatives that the ministry through the Value Addition Section (formerly One Village One Product) has nurtured and supported, was constructed with funding from the African Development Bank.
Source: Malawi News Agency MANA