Malawi’s agriculture sector prevailed COVID-19 headwinds registering 6.6% growth

MALAWI – The agriculture sector of Malawi has reported a 6.6% jump in the fourth quarter of 2020, a rise from 4.3% achieved in 2019.

According to the latest report by Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM), the rise is attributed to high maize, rice and cotton output following favourable weather conditions and increased input uptake.

Explaining the sector growth, agriculture policy development analyst Tamani Nkhono-Mvula said agriculture is seasonal and is predominantly subsistence with little linkage to the international market except for a few value chains such as tea.

“As such, the disruption of the supply chain that happened on the international market had little impact on local production and growth,” he said.

Nkhono-Mvula said there is need to ensure that agriculture growth translates into development and transformation of the sector and poverty reduction of the farming communities, reports The Nation Malawi.

Malawi’s agriculture sector to grow by 8.8% in 2021

Reserve Bank of Malawi

On the contrary, the RBM report shows that growth in other sectors was subdued when compared to the prior year.

For instance, the manufacturing sector’s growth for 2020 was at 4.3 percent, a drop from 5.1 percent in 2019.

RBM has attributed the slow growth to Covid-19, which hindered both imports and exports of goods due to border closures and restrictions. This affected the importation of production inputs as well as exportation of manufactured goods.

The hotel and food services sector was the most affected by the pandemic in 2020 as it contracted by 26.7 percent from a growth of 4.8 percent in 2019, the figures show.

“This slowdown was predominantly on account of the cancellation of conferences, popularisation of virtual meetings, reduction in the inflow of expatriates and tourists whose demand in the services sector is significant, and restrictions on the numbers of people patronising restaurants,” reads the report in part.

Building on the growth momentum of the agriculture sector, the central bank projects an 8.8% growth in 2021 largely boosted by maize output.

Maize output is expected to push up growth in the agriculture sector, with the Ministry of Agriculture first-round production estimates showing that the staple grain’s output is expected at 4.4 million metric tonnes.

This is 42 percent above the five-year average and 21 percent above the national requirement, according to the Famine Early Warning System Network (FewsNet).

Meanwhile, the country’s Ministry of Trade has partially lifted the maize export ban to mop up last year’s maize stocks to create space for the anticipated more than one million metric tonnes (MT) surplus grain.

In a statement, the ministry’s Principal Secretary Christina Zakeyo advised interested exporters to apply for export licences to enable them export the staple grain.

The Malawi government imposed an uninterrupted maize export ban from 2011/13 until the end of 2017.

In early February 2018, government reintroduced the ban to preserve the national grain reserve and stem the impact of tighter domestic supplies.

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