Malawi facing hiccups in processing cotton seed


A study has shown that Malawi is facing challenges in processing cotton seed to make products like cotton seed oil and because of this, the seed is being exported to South Africa for processing.

This was revealed in Lilongwe on Tuesday, 8 May, 2022, during a National Validation Workshop on the development of Cotton byproducts in Malawi.

According to the feasibility study, over 200,000 farmers in the country are depending on cotton farming and 92 percent of the famers are aware of cotton byproducts but lack skills, capacity and equipment to invest in byproduct production.


Speaking at the workshop, Dr.  Mavuto Tembo, an independent consultant for the feasibility study, said Malawi has not yet taken advantage of the byproducts because most smallholder farmers do not have necessary capacity equipment and that’s one of the big challenge.

“You know a lot of farmers here in Malawi do not have processing equipment and those who are already in processing sector like G-nuts and oil crushes, they have reservations in regards to cotton yield’s potential to make profit in the country. So that has been a limitation and also the absorption rate of cotton seed oil has been low and because of that I think we need to have a market that I think can come in to produce and manufacture the products,” said Tembo.

Tembo also added that for the cotton industry not to grow, there are some challenges like quantity of oil crushes from cotton seeds and volume of raw materials very low.

“You have seen Malawi has hit the lowest in 2021 market season of seed cotton. So one wouldn’t be able to operate on equipment to produce products from cotton and the other thing is, on the side of the farmers, the prices of cotton which are low,” explained Tembo.

In her remarks, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry Christina Zakeyu said cotton is a very important sector for Malawi and as Government they will see how best they can revamp the particular sector in terms of its support as well as its contribution to GDP.

“Cotton is a very important sector in view of its contribution in terms of its contribution to GDP, its contribution to exports as well as its contribution towards poverty reduction.

“We have more than 200 thousand farmers that are engaged in the production of cotton and it is also important sector on view of value chain that it contributes towards the production of some of the very important products like textiles, clothing as well as cooking oil we can use the seed in terms of production,” said Zakeyu.

Paul Turnbull

In his remarks, World Food Program Country representative Paul Turnbull said United Nations is able to give some technical assistance to the cotton industry in Malawi more especially in production and marketing.

Paul said the United Nations has a lot of experience in marketing of products in the production of stuff like byproducts in cotton for many countries.

“They would seem to be opportunities for the domestic markets as well as exports. So I suppose the issue is to make sure that there are facilitators for the value addition so that there can be more of the value return in the country for the domestic market. You can see that there is big market for cooking oil in Malawi so if we look at cotton seed oil they would have a good market,” said Turnbull.

The workshop was co-hosted by the Ministry of Trade and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in conjunction with World Trade Organization (WTO) and International Trade Centre.