Thursday, December 9, 2010

Then: Agro-experts throng 2010 fair

The atmosphere was electric. The day was August 26, 2010—the grand opening of the national agriculture fair when all stakeholders in the agriculture sector throng the Trade Fair grounds to rub shoulders and exchange ideas.

The fair attracted experts from the agriculture sector. Agro-processors, the experts who add value to farm produce and turn the fruits of the fertile land that is Malawi into hard cash, were there, too, shaking hands with service providers such as Bunda College of Agriculture and Agriculture Research and Extension Trust officials.

Agricultural imports’ suppliers were there to finish the four-some equation as well, an agricultural fair equation that is incomplete without service providers, farmers’ organisations, import suppliers and agro-processors — all of whom play one role or the other in satisfying consumers’ needs.

The opening day of the National Agriculture Fair has become a big day, made more significant with the presence of the State President Professor Bingu wa Mutharika who has become a regular feature at the event.

His keen interest spans from the time he headed the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, around which time the country’s crop production fortunes changed for the better, in part because of good agriculture policies which include the famed Input Subsidy Programme. Although the President has now entrusted Professor Peter Mwanza to run the ministry, he made it a point to come and see.

And, when he did, he had good plans for the agro-processing industry. Mutharika said, among others, that Malawi’s future lay in agro-processing.

As if to buttress this point, the President warned against the practice of exporting raw materials, saying Malawi was ready to add value and sow from where its farmers labour and toil.

People cheered. He had touched a cord.

Smiles and anticipation, generally, were in order at the fair which MCCCI, organisers of the event, were just clever enough to have held under the theme: Accelerating Development through Agriculture.

The Farmers Union of Malawi led the way, alongside the likes of Mulli Brothers, Bunda College of Agriculture, Optichem Malawi Limited and Mitundu Agriculture Processing Group.

In all, 80 exhibitors, among them, representatives of the Zimbabwe High Commission, participated in the event. The most encouraging thing, in the words of Professor Peter Mwanza, is that 32 farmer organisations made their way to Blantyre.

Mwanza said this is important because 82 percent of the Malawi population is supported by agriculture. That is why we also have the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CADEP). The Food and Agriculture Organisation has been running another agriculture pilot project, as well imparting agriculture knowledge through farmers’ schools.

These are indicators that the country takes agriculture seriously, and where else can this commitment be shown than at the National Agriculture Fair?

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