A South African based florist Kemp Myburgh has tipped the country to revamp its idea of investing in the cut flower industry which he claims can potentially augment tobacco farming, Malawi's main forex earner. He suggests flowers can help make thousands of households food secure and beat the recurrent problem of hunger which affects millions every year.
The 2019/2020 Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) showed that a total of 1 062 674 people, out of the total estimated Malawi rural population of 14 747 257 will not be able to meet their annual food requirement during the 2019/20 consumption period.
Myburgh said the flower industry is one solution that can help Malawi break to break the food insecurity chain. Despite the existing lucrative international markets, the Malawi flower industry stopped blooming for about two decades.
Myburgh said: "Malawi is currently losing billions of money some of which could be used to alleviate the hunger in the country. Economic benefits to be earned from Forex on the exportation of the flowers could be huge and benefit poor farmers".
Cut flowers are flowers or flower buds, with some stem and leaf that have been cut from a stem bearing it. They are sold on more competitive prices and buyers often use them during events like weddings, funerals and other purposes.
While visiting Flourburgh, a flower farm owned by Myburgh in Waboomskrall in the township of George in Western Cape, South Africa, this reporter noted the farm offers the finest platform and best learning ground in the development of a vibrant and commercially viable flowers industry.
Status of the Cut Flower industry in Malawi
Godfrey Mfiti, an Environmental Rights Activist and Author, who owns Nthaka Poultry Farms Limited a company in Malawi that is country developing its organic fertilizer for Malawi market made from Rabbit Waste and other organic materials highlights that the current status of Cut Flower industry in the country is very low.
Little has been done to impart knowledge to local farmers in Floriculture in Malawi. The industry would represent an extra source of income for families to procure livestock and other basic necessities including education of their children. - Mfiti.
“Floriculture is a niche that has not been explored in Malawi . Local farmers have not realized the potential benefits of the industry to ease the economic challenges they face. Floriculture, being a low input agriculture farming system would gradually replace the loses being encountered in the Tobacco industry that is slowly not benefiting a lot in Malawi in terms of income. Little has been done to impart knowledge to local farmers in Floriculture in Malawi. The industry would represent an extra source of income for families to procure livestock and other basic necessities including education of their children.” Adds Mfiti.
So does Malawi have the best soils for floriculture?
According to Bello Shano, the Soils Analyst at Agrilab, a subsidiary of Farming and Engineering Services in Malawi, the country has suitable soils for flowers, of which each region has certain types of flowers which can do well in it. The analyst points it out however, that one needs to be clever in selecting what flowers to grow where.
“You just have to do research and choose the suitable flowers that thrive in your environment (considering soil type, rainfall, temperature, humidity, etc). In terms of soil, some flowers are a little fussy about soil types and pH but in general, most plants are happy with good quality topsoil”, explained Shano.
On chemicals and fertilizers used in flowers.
Shano further discourages Malawians wherever possible avoid using chemicals and if they are used, safety precautions should be followed. Excessive use of fertilizers can also lead to problems such as making the soil more acidic thus unsuitable to most plants according to soil scientists. He points out that in most cases using organic manure is usually safe and adequate in the production of flowers.
Malawi’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and water development spokesperson, Pricilla Mateyu was not handy to give a comment despite several attempts.
Despite the booming of the flower market on the international market in recent years, the Malawi business sector is yet to break into such a market.
The fall of the Lingadzi farms in early 2000 is an epitome of how the flower sector has failed to flourish. It was the closure of the farms that marked the erasing of Malawi flowers at the international market. At the time of its closure, as reported by the African Magazine of December 2000, Lingadzi was the country’s largest flower grower and exporter –exporting an average of 20 million stems of roses a year – with over 700 workers. The closure of the farm saw Malawi losing US$ 28 million in revenues.