Malawi MapThe Republic of Malawi is marked by stunning scenery. One of its main attractions is lake Malawi, also known as lake Nyassa. Malawi is a landlocked country situated in Southern Africa, comprising an area of almost 118,500 square kilometers. Agriculture accounts for 33% of GDP while manufacturing accounts for only 12%. Nearly 22% of the GDP comes from the distribution sector and is mainly accounted for by trading and retailing activities most of which are based in or linked to the rural economy.

Cotton has traditionally been an important cash crop in Malawi. The crop is grown on about 30,000 ha and supports about 120,000 small holder farmers, three ginning companies and three main input providers. Till 2003/04, cotton yields averaged about 600 kg/ha, but since then because of a number of cotton development initiatives, the average yield has increased. The crop is often cultivated with maize and other drought tolerant small grains. Since 1980’s cotton production has declined largely because of mixing of different grades, limited grading by farmers and polypropylene contamination, declining productivity, low Ginning – Out – turn (GOT) etc. Recent years have also witnessed a decline in area under cotton cultivation due to shift from cotton production to other crops because of reduced international prices and the inefficiencies in the sector.

There are two ginners in Malawi, both of which are subsidiaries of international cotton companies: Clark Cotton Malawi (CCM), Great Lakes Cotton Company (GLCC). Each ginner owns two plants, which are in good technological condition but under utilisation of the ginning capacity is a matter of concern.

The textile industry too has been declining. Until 1990’s there was an integrated cotton textiles and garment chain in Malawi with inter-sector linkages. However, with changing circumstances during 1990’s and the decline and eventual collapse of the only remaining textile company, David Whitehead and Sons (DWS), the chain had in effect been broken.

Presently, the garment industry is small and is generally focused on low value garments suitable for mass market and discount stores.

The sector suffers from a number of constraints such as low productivity due usage of low quality and unsuitable seed varieties, low usage of inputs as they are costly and not adequately available, lack of credit available to farmers, lack of farmer organisation for buying inputs and marketing cotton, poor on-farm practices and farmers limited knowledge of farmers of basic issues like spacing, number of seeds to plant, pest identification etc. The revival of the local textile industry would increase the flow of cotton from growers, ginners and upstream industry.

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