ON THE RIGHT TRACK

Mozambique 2020 | AGRICULTURE | FOCUS: REFORMING THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR

Mozambique's agricultural sector holds great potential for growth, but it is a sector beset by challenges. Although the government has implemented a host of reforms in recent years, more needs to be done to ensure a supportive business environment.

Mozambique emerged from civil war 28 years ago in 1992 as one of the most impoverished countries in the world. But since then it has experienced remarkable economic growth, with an average economic annual growth rate of 7% over the last two decades. To date, agriculture continues to be the backbone of the Mozambican economy, contributing to more than 25% of its GDP and employing 80% of its labor force. Nearly 95% of agricultural production is rain fed and an overwhelming majority of producers are subsistence farmers.

With 36 million ha of potential arable land, the agriculture sector has immense potential to reduce poverty and boost economic growth. Already the second-largest formal exporter of food in the southern Africa region, Mozambique has all the right ingredients to eventually become a major food producer in the world. Only 16% of land suitable for farming is currently cultivated, and its geographic location between landlocked countries and trade corridors raises its potential to play an important role in regional food security and international markets. Notably, although land in Mozambique is state property, legislation has created separate rights governing its use, enabling agribusiness and agroindustry to develop. Improving agricultural productivity and ensuring access to food have been on the top of the government's agenda of late, further improving Mozambique's prospects of being a key player in regional and global food security. In his inaugural address, President Filipe Nyusi highlighted the potential of agro-industry and promised to achieve zero hunger and self-sufficiency. He stressed that the only way to achieve that is by helping the agriculture sector overcome the constraints it faces, including poor adoption of improved technologies, insufficient capacity and extension delivery, poor infrastructure, unsustainable natural resources management, and climate change.

Crops in Mozambique are mostly rainfed rather than irrigated, even though the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that Mozambique has the greatest irrigation potential in terms of available hectares of any country in Africa. The country's vulnerability to climate change is further exacerbated by its long coastline, extensive land area below sea level, and the confluence of many transnational rivers into the Indian Ocean. Luckily, the government has developed and implemented a number of programs, agreements, and strategies to ensure sustainable management of natural resources and climate resilience. One example is the National Plan of Action for Agriculture Adaptation to Climate Change (PAMC) 2015-2020, which is aimed at helping smallholder farmers cope with climate change, improve institutional coordination, and increase the adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices.

PAMC is fully aligned with the Strategic Plan for Development of the Agricultural Sector (PEDSA), which focuses on turning agriculture into a modern, commercially driven, and inclusive primary sector. Another key component of the government's master plan is the National Agricultural Investment Plan (PNISA), an investment instrument that assists smallholder farmers in growing a wide variety of cash crops and supports the research and introduction of bio-fortified varieties of staple foods.
Through PNISA, the government seeks to improve household food security, augment the income of food producers and the profitability of agricultural production, and support a rapid and sustainable transition to market-oriented production. On the back of such initiatives, certain products have seen significant increases in exports, such as fruits, nuts, vegetables, and cereals between 2013 and 2017. At the same time, imports of food products, fish, and sugar declined during the same period, indicating that more and more production is occurring locally in Mozambique. While there is no doubt that the agro-industry in Mozambique is contributing significantly to industrialization, development, and employment generation, the government must do more to address bottlenecks such as poor infrastructure, prohibitive regulations, and lack of financial support.