By Richard Chirombo
Malawi could increase the number of exports to Japan and reduce its trade balance gap following that country’s offer to increase the list of Malawian products currently trading hands there.
The country presently exports macadamia nuts, honey and other One Village One Product (Ovop) products to Japan, commodities Malawi’s ambassador to that country, Roosevelt Gondwe, said had won the hearts of Japanese consumers and increased their appetite for more products.
Gondwe revealed in a recent interview that negotiations between the two countries on the list of potential products to be included under the new arrangement were under way, adding the task was left in the hands of the Malawi Export Promotion Council (Mepc).
He described it as a “very big opportunity”, one that could help the country fill a long-existent export gap, and increase foreign exchange earnings at a time the global economy was going through turbulent economic times following the financial crunch that started with oversights in the United States futures market and has now spilled over to other world economies.
“Malawian products, such as macadamia nuts and natural honey, have won the hearts of many Japanese consumers that they have been asking for more. This prompted us to start negotiations through Mepc, and we expect that over 10 types of products could be included, so long as we have the capacity to supply consistently because consumer habits are permanent,” said Gondwe.
He said Malawi’s agro-based economy could be spared from many world markets shocks if there was market-diversification of exports crops, meaning the export of as many crops as possible to as many international markets as available.
The Japan offer comes in the wake of intensified development-diplomacy campaigns by Malawi, a development reported to have tripled interest in the strategic Malawi Growth and Development Strategy areas of mineral exploration, tourism and manufacturing, according to sources in the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Economic Division.
Gondwe said the country could still make the best out of the current global economic quagmire, so long as exporters met international standards. He said the current economic crisis could have led to some laxity by some dominant exporters, and countries that often find it tough to penetrate some markets could try their lack and, possibly, win long time consumers on the international market.
Deputy Industry and Trade Minister, Ellock Maotcha Banda, has concurred with Gondwe, saying the economic crisis could be an economic blessing in disguise for countries like Malawi, and asked small and medium scale enterprises to intensify products’ marketing.
Maotcha Banda said by taking advantage of some probable laxities by some dominant exporters that often stand in the way of Malawi, the country could create long term marketing opportunities for its “often unique” products.
“There is no time for laxity; it is time to try our chances by exporting good quality products. We have a lot of unique products in this country, and the good thing is that experience has shown that these products (of ours) are habit-forming. That is the key; export something that is habit-forming and you have a long term market right before you,” said Maotcha Banda.