By Lansen Chikopa
“If there are two things that should be remembered in my presentation, one is that Malawi needs to produce and secondly Malawi needs trade – it needs to export,” that was Tim de Borde, CEO for Exagris Africa, a farming giant in Malawi which also co-owns Afrinut, a peanut processing company. The remarks were made on 17th February 2016 during the visit to Exagris and Afrinut by the UK Cabinet Minister and Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell.
Upon arrival, the minister who was accompanied by the British High Commissioner to Malawi, Michael Navin, was briefed about Exagris Africa and Afrinut. He was informed that Exagris has farms across the country but mainly in the central and northern regions where different crops are grown including maize, groundnuts, soya, beans and birds eye chillies. Some of the crops are mainly grown for seed. Some crop produce is sold locally including seed to the Malawi government while some is exported mainly to South Africa. The crops are mainly rain fed but with Norfund investment there is now a big drive into irrigation in view of climate change which is negatively impacting on Malawi. The Exagris CEO emphasised that crops like paprika and groundnuts need to be promoted as the country needs an alternative to tobacco which is currently facing many challenges.
The Minister was also informed that Exagris Africa co-owns Afrinut which is a peanut processing company. The groundnuts are processed either into roasted form or paste which is then used by another sister company, Valid Nutrition to make ready to use therapeutic food (RUTF). The RUTF is made on order by UNICEF among other buyers and is used to feed malnourished people especially children.
After the brief on the company, the minister was taken on a tour of the Afrinut Factory and the office premises. At the factory Hans Schonenberger, the Afrinut Operations Manager explained how quality control is done to ensure safety to the peanut products. The Minister was also taken to the new site where a state of the art factory is under construction to meet market demands and requirements.
The minister was then taken round pavilions to appreciate various products and services offered by Exagris. Biko Thindwa, the Sales Manager, showed the minister displays of crops the farm produces. He emphasised on adherence to quality as one of the important aspects to ensure both local and export market satisfaction. Quality is the catch word.
The Outgrower Manager, Charles Chikopa also took the visiting minister through a visual and power point presentation on how Exagris works with smallholder farmers to produce high quality peanuts with all efforts to reduce levels of aflatoxin which is the main challenge affecting both human and animal health and therefore markets as well. Exagris is working with about 10,000 smallholder farmers in groundnuts production. The farmers are supported with inputs including seed and shelling equipment. To achieve the objective of working with communities Exagris is implementing groundnuts donor funded projects focusing on agronomy, storage and research.