President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera has disclosed that the Mega Farm Support Unit has registered 800 medium and large-scale farmers, with aggregated land holding of 63, 000 hectares across the country.
Chakwera said all of registered farmers have been verified and sensitized to the mechanisms of the programme and that government has already started providing them with necessary support to enable them thrive in their ventures.
The President made the remarks on Thursday when he launched Private Sector Mega Farms Programme and One Stop Support Centre at Kanengo in Lilongwe.
Chakwera said he was pleased with the new political will and technical leadership the new broom at the Ministry of Agriculture has demonstrated in the implementation of the mega farm programme.
"As you know, last year I expressed great frustration at the lack of progress and action by the Ministry of Agriculture on my directives regarding the development of mega farms to operationalize the agro-industrialization and commercialization pillar of Malawi 2063 and fulfil my administration's commitment to the achievement of food security. The situation was so concerning that I even gave the ministry a deadline by which to see to it that mega farms were starting to be developed, failing which there would be severe consequences for non-compliance," he said.
But Chakwera disclosed that he is happy with the dedication and zeal the new management at the Ministry of Agriculture have demonstrated towards the programme.
He stated that it is for this reason that he will be in Nkhata Bay to launch a mega farm next week before launching another one in Chikwawa a month after.
He described mega farms as a game changer as the country seeks to turnaround its economic fortunes.
"It is a game changer for our farmers, whose capacity for production is on full display in the pavilions that I have seen here this morning. Our farmers have deep and rich knowledge about farming, but many of them do not get as much out of their farms as they can because the focus is on subsistence farming that uses tools from a bygone era.
"We must therefore support them to scale up production through mechanization and modernization of their farming methods, so that they can reap the maximum benefits of farming. And in order for our farmers to make this transition from subsistence farming to commercial farming, government has made a concerted effort to reorganize farmers across the country into cooperatives, but the missing link is often the partnership of the private sector to fully leverage the potential of our land for mass production of commercial crops," said the President.
President Chakwera expressed hope that mega farms will contribute towards generation of foreign exchange for Malawi.
"This approach is also a game changer for our economy as a whole, because most of our forex revenue comes from farming, but given the forex challenges we have faced in the recent past as a consequence of the enormous debt left behind by past administrations, it is clear that our long term solution has to involve boosting and diversifying agricultural productivity for exports as outlined in our ATM Strategy.
"This is why I am delighted to provide this One Stop Support Centre for all Mega Farm initiatives by the private sector, because what we need is coordination between policy makers in government, resources and skills in the private sector, and the human and land resources that our farmers command," he said.
"The time for talking about mega farms is past. It is time for action, and this One-Stop Support Centre is our commitment to bringing farmers and private sector investors together to get things done," Chakwera concluded.