Malawi farmers scramble to produce pulses for India

April 3rd, 2011 - 1:49 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 3 (IANS) Farmers in the landlocked southeast African country of Malawi are shifting from their traditional crops to grow pulses to meet the increasing demand in the international market, especially from India.

The government in Malawi is encouraging farmers to grow more pulses to meet the demand in India, said Malawi businessman John Jimu Banda, who was here to attend the CII-EXIM Bank India-Africa Business Conclave March 27-29.

Apart from attending the meet, Banda intended to buy some equipment, but he is going back to his country with an export order for the supply of pigeon pea or tuar dal.

“There is a big demand for pigeon pea in India. I have got orders for supplying 1,000 tonnes of pigeon pea from two parties,” he said. Malawi is already exporting about 50,000 tonnes of pulses to India, but there is “good scope for increasing the quantity”, according to Banda.

“The government is putting emphasis on growing beans for the Indian market. It is telling farmers that there is a good market for the pulses abroad.”

The Malawi government has sought assistance from India for producing new varieties, and for research and training in growing early-maturing and high-yielding varieties of pulses.

The main crop in Malawi, formerly known as Nyasaland, is maize, tea and tobacco, but farmers also grew beans of various kinds. Tobacco, tea and sugarcane provided 70 percent of Malawi’s export earnings till the international prices of tobacco crashed.

Since then the government has been encouraging growers to shift to other crops such as pulses, paprika, macadamia nuts and fruits.

Farmers in Malawi grow soya, pigeon pea, chick pea or garbanzo or chole, green gram (moong), white cow peas (lobiya) and red beans or kidney beans (rajma). The red beans are of two varieties - a small deep-red bean and a larger bean with a red-speckled skin. “The difference is only in the colour, the taste of both is the same,” Banda said.

The Malawi businessman was looking to buy extractor machinery to make soya milk from soya bean. “I have signed a contract with an engineering company for a machine with the capacity to make 500 litres of soya milk in a day,” he said.

Banda started his company, J.J. Enterprise, in 2004 with agricultural exports, mainly exporting maize to Zimbabwe and South Africa.

This was his second trip to India, having visited India for the first time in November 2010 as part of President Bingu Wa Mutharika’s delegation. “I had met some business people during that trip and had seen many possibilities. Malawi imports machinery for food processing from India and India buys pulses and beans from Malawi.”

An upbeat Banda termed his visit “very fruitful”.

“I hope to do good business and I look forward to coming back next year again,” he said.

(Shubha Singh can be contacted at shubhasingh101@gmail.com)

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