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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Watermelons Key to Social-Economic Growth- Analysts

By Steven Godfrey Mkweteza

Synthesis Agriculture, a local horticulture firm in the country, says the country stands a better chance of transforming its economy if only farmers tap from the international demand for locally produced watermelons whose market trend has surged, increasing by 60,000 metric tonnes to 180,000 metric tonnes a week in South Africa alone.

Projects Manager for the Agricultural Institution, Aeron Chitimbe observed in an interview on Saturday in Blantyre on the sidelines of the Southern Region Watermelon training workshop.

Chitimbe, however, said the country could benefit from the farming if only farmers were properly capacitated on how best to grow the internationally recommended varieties to meet the required demand.

According to Chitimbe, his firm has identified watermelon markets in countries such as Mozambique, Zambia and South Africa-where if properly utilized, could transform the country’s economy through provision of labor opportunities and forex.

“We understand that the main challenges with farmers in the country are lack of proper markets for their produce and technical know-how.

Therefore, we have identified huge market potential outside the country which also demands huge supply.

However, the gap can be narrowed only if farmers are well capacitated to grow the specific varieties that are on huge demand,” said Chitimbe.

Chitimbe added that the country is flooded with watermelon from other countries since the farmers in the country lacked capacity of growing scientifically applied varieties since they lack technical know-how.

He said the institution has since embarked on a recruitment exercise to identify over 150 farmers across the country to produce the fruit crop to meet the new market demand.

Chitimbe said this was an opportunity for local farmers to earn more from their labour.

He said just in June this year, the firm signed a new contract with a buyer in south Africa who assured the firm that despite the effects of the covid-19 pandemic, they will buy the fruits and increase the volumes by 60,000 metric tones

He said the country has a conducive climate pattern for the farming which grows well on warm weather as compared to other African countries.

The projects manager said after the recruiting drive, growers will sign contract on commitment to grow the crop so that they also benefit from the technical expertise from the firm up to the marketing stage.

Among others, participants were drilled in crop management activities such as pests and disease control measures, storage and marketing.

The training targeted over 110 farmers from the southern and easten regions of the country.

One of the farmers from Zomba district, Ellen Mazalale described the training as a dream come true as she was cultivating the interest to venture into the farming.

“This must be a long dream come true indeed. I have for a long time configuring on which type of farming to venture into.  

But now I have been enlightened and will start this type of farming also looking at the successful of those already in the industry. It is a promising especially that the crop fruits are coming out healthy,” said Matalare.

However, some farmers say the farming has potential for economic growth but its labour intensive and requires both huge human and capital investments.

They said most of their crops have been affected by pests and diseases that have affected their output due to poor extension services.

While others said after calculating the input, they expected to make a lot of profit.

In 2019, Synthesis Agriculture signed a contract with a foreign firm to be buying watermelons from about 500 local farmers.

Synthesis Agriculture started five years ago, with among other objectives of training and securing markets for farmers on various crops such as paprika, banana and watermelon.

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