Performance of cassava supply chain in Lilongwe District, Malawi
Chinyophiro, Amon Josam
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Cassava is among the most important food crops in Malawi that has seen a rapid growth in recent years in production and productivity as well as in processing, transportation and marketing. It has created many jobs to various players in its supply chain. The study was aimed at understanding cassava supply chain in the country by focusing on marketing of the crop targeting its players operating in Lilongwe district. The rural parts of Mlodzenzi and Chitsime had smallholder commercial producers who sold cassava to city residents through other supply chain players. The main objective of the study was to assess the performance of cassava supply chain in Lilongwe district. Specifically, the study was aimed at characterising the supply chain players and to determine profitability of individual player categories in the chain. Efficiency of players in the chain was also determined as well as structure of the chain and conduct of its players. Factors affecting performance of players were determined by running regression models for each of the categories. The most common cassava marketing channel identified in the chain was “producer→wholesaler→retailer→consumer”. Results revealed that significant differences exist among players on gross revenues, variable costs and their profits. Transport costs contributed the most to total variable costs. Wholesalers controlled cassava trade in the chain. They had the biggest price difference of 130 percent and the highest marketing margin of 57 percent. Players’ conduct analysis revealed that wholesalers alternated days of selling cassava on the markets of Lilongwe city for them to control cassava supply hence increasing its prices. Regression results revealed that access to phone, interaction among supply chain players, access to credit and fortification of boiled cassava were among the significant determinants of players’ performance in the chain. The study concluded that structurally unavailability of market services such as price information and credit were the main barriers to entry into cassava marketing. The conduct of alternating days of selling cassava by wholesalers also presented a barrier to new entrants into the cassava chain because potential entrants were denied time and space in the days of the week. Among others, cassava gross revenues were positively influenced by accessibility to modern technologies such as the mobile phone, interaction among players, access to credit and fortification of boiled cassava. The study recommends group extension approaches which promote interaction of players to encourage exchange of ideas. Providers of credit are encouraged to assist players in the chain starting with sensitising them on how such facilities would improve their gross revenues. A further investigation into cassava processing, utilisation and export potential will stimulate growth of gross revenues for players at all levels.