Infrastructure, traffic, sanitation are market challenges

Editor’s note: This is one of a series of posts by students from Michigan State University in the U.S. and LUANAR University in Malawi who participated in the Frugal Innovations Program of the Global Center for Food Systems Innovation.

By Edgar Binali

Monday, 10th August 2015.

We visited two markets and three supermarkets. The following are brief general observations and recommendations.

The most common challenge was the issue of food safety/quality. One striking thing was the way these markets are regulated. It seems there is no inspection on the food being sold, most especially animal products.

One thing that contributes to poor food quality is the lack of proper infrastructure for these food entrepreneurs. For example fish is sold in open spaces without coverings and this attracts a lot of flies. The problem is also aggravated due to poor waste management. So I think it will require a very unique holistic approach to curb the issues of food safety/quality because the causes are diverse in nature.

Bringing in the trash cans can help reduce unnecessary waste dumping as the case in Detroit as alluded to by Lauren (MSU student). Also sellers can cover their products to minimize flies.

Market organization is another challenge. Market segments are not well allocated and cause unnecessary traffic. The allocation of various activities (markets layout) is poor as well. Tsoka market had the worst layout as compared to the main market. The best option to deal with the issues of organization is for the city assembly to provide extra space and proper allocation of products inside the market sections. This could also help tackle traffic issues
in the markets. It is also important if proper infrastructure (permanent covered sections) are put in place.

Just as Chen reported, some products like vegetables and tubers appeared nice in the wet markets compared to supermarkets. One team observed that some supermarkets (name withheld) had rotten fresh fish. It could be seen that if packaging is enhanced in the wet markets (like they do in Detroit), wet markets could contain as
good/safe foods as supermarkets.

One striking thing I observed was the increase of locally made food and other products in our supermarkets. This is very commendable as it increases markets for producers. One thing that has to be improved is the packaging style. It seems that most Malawian’s products lacks marketing strategies (large volume of products are packed in a unit) and this limits/lowers profits as selling price per unit could not reflects the production cost.

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