Government supports rice farming, may overtake tobacco – Dr. Chaponda

Government has emphasized its keen interest in developing and diversifying the country’s agriculture production, expand its export base, and improve livelihood of the producers.

Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Dr. George Chaponda made the remarks on Thursday at the National Rice Development Platform Conference held at Crossroads Hotel.

“Government provides support towards rice production in the country by focusing on the promotion of irrigation development. By supporting irrigation infrastructure development such as rehabilitation of irrigation schemes, Government creates a conducive environment for private sector investment and local community participation in rice value chain development,” Dr. Chaponda said.

The Agriculture Minister further commended the National Rice Development Platform (NRDP) and the African Institute of Corporate Citizenship (AICC) for cooperating with government in striving to promote rice farming, saying: “the work is enormous but I believe that if we continue engaging each other as partners, together we are going to achieve more.”

Dr. Chaponda inspects rice during conference -Pic by Roy Nkosi

Dr. Chaponda added: “Let me call upon on all sector players to join hands to implement strategic actions outlined in the rice development strategy. Let us all strive to help our farmer to realize increased income and export earnings through sustainable rice production, marketing and utilization.”

He then pointed out that rice may overtake tobacco considering the challenges that the crop is facing on the market.

Concurring with the Minister, NRDP Chairperson Professor David Kamchacha said rice has the potential to be promoted primarily as an import substitute, but also secondarily as an export crop.

“As an export crop, rice has the potential to generate the much needed revenue in the country. If rice is to be exported, it is imperative that the marketing systems in the rice value chain be improved and strengthened so as to benefit all the value chain players from the smallholder farmer to exporter,” he disclosed.

Kamchacha said the processing and marketing pillar of the National Rice Development Strategy recognized that the marketing of rice in Malawi continued to be hampered by a number of factors chief of which is lack of a structured market system.

He noted: “Majority of rice farmers do not have potential viable markets for their rice and rely on common seasonal vendors and traders. 95% of the smallholder rice producers sell their rice to local traders. As such, the farmers are limited in limited in terms of the price gains due to their inability to benefit from higher prices offered by the large scale millers.”

NRDP was formed with the aim of enhancing collaboration of the stakeholders in value chain to promote the development of a competitive rice value chain in Malawi. It was formed in 2013 and it is facilitated by AICC, CISANET and ICCO.

Source: Malawi News Agency