MALAWI – Malawi has made its first successful large-scale harvest of wheat seed at Mpale Farm in Madisi, Dowa District after years of attempts to find a variety of grain suitable for its soil.

Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture said the wheat farm will be producing 90 metric tonnes of wheat harvest, which is 50 percent of the country’s wheat consumption.

This comes after President Lazarus Chakwera recently launched a large-scale crop production initiative dubbed “mega-farms,” aimed at boosting the country’s agricultural-based economy and helping end persistent food shortages.

Speaking during the start of the first large-scale harvest over the weekend, Ronald Ngwira, chief executive officer of Malawi-registered U.S. company Pyxus Agriculture Limited said the wheat farming will help Malawi save millions of dollars spent on wheat imports.

He revealed that Pyxus Agriculture Limited, which operates a farm in central Malawi for the diversification of wheat seeds, has identified about four varieties of wheat suitable for Malawian soil out of about 80 varieties which had been tried since 2019.

According to him, wheat farming is seen as a solution to mitigate the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on grain imports to the African continent.

“Malawi imports 200,000 tons of wheat at US$48 million. To get there, it could take us four years to produce enough wheat in Malawi to satisfy ourselves,” Ngwira said.

President Lazarus Chakwera, who witnessed the harvest Friday at Mpale farm in Dowa district lauded Malawian farmers adding that the country is making strides towards self-sufficiency.

“Wheat farming can enable Malawi to be self-sustaining. But this will require each one of us to work hard to achieve the desired results. Let us all make a move toward that goal by even using modern technology,” Chakwera said.

Malawi has long been heavily dependent on imported wheat, and the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has disrupted food supply chains. According to the United Nations, Africa takes up 12.26% of grain imported from Ukraine.

Wisdom Mgomezulu, an agricultural economist and lecturer at Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences called for sustainable production technologies that can give a comparative advantage, considering that there are already big players in the market.

“We need more investment in research. Let’s look for more funds and donor partners to finance agronomists and researchers who are trying their best to breed varieties that can be grown here in Malawi.

In the meantime, Ngwira of Pyxus said they are planning to plant 15,000 hectares of seed in December to prepare farmers for mass wheat production next year.