By Mc Donald Chapalapata, a Contributor
Minister of Forestry and Natural Resources Nancy Tembo has hailed The Foods Company Limited (TFCL), trading as Maldeco, for the strides it is making in aquaculture industry in order to increase fish production.
Tembo made the remarks Thursday when she toured Maldeco and also visited the fish biomass survey on Lake Malawi in Mangochi under the programme dubbed Restoring Fisheries for Sustainable Livelihoods (REFRESH).
“I am delighted today to have the chance to visit Maldeco, which is a Press Corporation plc subsidiary company. I am particularly impressed with the aquaculture activities especially the fish cages and its future plans to expand the operations for increased fish production from its facilities.”
“I commend the efforts of Maldeco staff and your partners for your fruitful efforts and urge you to continue to invest in the aquaculture production. I am well satisfied and pleased to note that Maldeco will continue to contribute positively to improved food security, nutrition status as well as providing employment opportunities for many Malawians,” said Tembo.
Tembo was taken on a tour of Maldeco by its General Manager Andrew Santhe and other senior officials and she toured the hatchery, the old feed production plant which the company is planning to replace with a modern one, and the fish cages on Lake Malawi.
Santhe said investments to the tune of over US$8 million have been made in the past 4 years, with about $4 million being made from 2019 which have gone into the expansion of the cage capacity, increasing number of cages from 44 to 67, deployment of 100 fry tanks at the farm for fry conditioning and expansion of breeding ponds from 24 to 85 among other things.
“These investments are already bearing fruit. We have been able to increase our fry production from 8.6 million in the previous breeding season to 18.1 million in the just ended breeding season of 2019/20. This shows how prepared we are in increasing fish production going forward,” said Santhe.
He, however, asked government to level the playing field in the fish industry saying there is a sudden boom in imported brands which are competing with local operators on the market in recent times.
“We are not saying that Government should ban imports. No. We also will soon commence exporting our fish to other countries in the region and we will need favourable policies in those countries as well to enable us compete.”
“But our request to Government is to level the playing field. For instance, we are importing floating feed mainly from Zambia and Zimbabwe and this is being charged VAT at the borders. The imported fish brands are coming into the country VAT free. VAT on imported feed increases the production cost of our fish and you can see already there that it is hard to compete against competing products which are coming into the country VAT free and therefore, being heavily discounted relative to the local products,” explained Santhe.
He also added that access to affordable capital is another big huddle such operators are facing in their quest to scale up production capacity. He urged Government to put in place deliberate policies that are aimed at promoting growth of the sector just like the way some of the neighboring countries are doing.
Tembo admitted the challenges that Maldeco is facing and promised to take the matter up and sort out the issues saying there is need to invest heavily in the fish industry because of the free natural resource that the country has, Lake Malawi.