Afri-Nut Ltd:

A landmark groundnut processing plant for Malawi

A brand new, state-of-the-art groundnut processing plant has opened in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi.

The result of years of collaborative work between UK fair trade organisation,

Twin, and the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM), Afri-Nut Ltd aims to move smallholder peanut producers up the value chain and to expand the volume of Fairtrade and other value-added peanuts produced for international, regional and domestic markets.

The Afri-Nut model addresses constraints that are common to many commodities in Malawi, where limited processing capacity results in high post-harvest losses. Afri-Nut has been designed to build efficiency and quality into a traditional value-chain; a model which can be replicated for other African agricultural commodities.

Safe groundnuts for and from Africa

One of the major challenges facing groundnut producers in Malawi is aflatoxin, a carcinogenic by-product of a fungus (Aspergillus sp.) that grows on crops such as maize and groundnuts. Aflatoxin is partly responsible for the collapse of Africa’s raw groundnut export trade. This fell from a 75% global share in the 1960s to just 5% by the mid 2000s due to increased competition from the US, China and Argentina combined with stricter aflatoxin controls in Europe.

Groundnut farmer in Malawi

Adding value for smallholder producers

The agricultural sector in southern Africa suffers from a lack of investment and low levels of mechanisation. Less than 30% of Africa’s agricultural production undergoes industrial processing, compared with 98% in high-income countries. As a result, African economies are failing to capitalise on value-added opportunities.

Going beyond raw peanut production, Afri-Nut Ltd will produce a range of value-added products such as peanut butter and paste for ready-to-use therapeutic food, marking a significant shift up the value chain and higher returns for producer-owners.

Contaminated groundnuts

As well as preventing international trade, aflatoxin is a significant public health issue. The risks associated with aflatoxin consumption include liver cancers, impaired growth (stunting) in children under five and suppression of the immune system. Some 60% of groundnuts grown in Malawi do not make it into formal markets thus receiving a significantly lower level of aflatoxin control and management.

Rigorous safety procedures are in place in the Afri-Nut value-chain to reduce the risk of aflatoxin contamination, including:

Pre- and post-processing aflatoxin testing;

Improvements in storage, including construction of modern warehouses and buying centres;

Replacing hand shelling with mechanical shelling to reduce exposure to moisture;

Sorting nuts at mechanised sorting tables.



Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King visits nut farmers in Malawi

Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King visited the pilot processing plant in 2009 and in 2011 Sainsbury’s staff visited Malawi to help build a new rural warehouse for nut producers.

Dyborn Chibonga chief executive officer of NASFAM stated, “If you would have said a few years ago that a CEO of a leading supermarket chain would visit our organisation people would have thought I was mad. The farmers can see that now nothing is impossible.”


Improvements in groundnut storage and processing

Facilitating trade

Through trading with Liberation Foods CIC, which is co-owned by Twin, NASFAM and producer organisations from Africa and Latin America, Afri-Nut products can gain access to the European market. Set up in 2007, Liberation now supplies the lion’s share of Fairtrade- certified nuts within the UK.

The future

As well as growing the business, Twin’s long-term goal with Afri-Nut is to pull aflatoxin not just out of the international value chain but out of local food chains too. Key challenges will include raising smallholder and donor awareness of the aflatoxin issue and facilitating a move to an enabling environment where experience and information-sharing amongst key stakeholders is common practice.

A new pan-African initiative, the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control (PACA) has identified Afri-Nut as an example of how a for-profit social investment business has the potential to have an impact on the health status of millions of people.

About Afri-Nut Ltd

Afri-Nut Ltd is a joint venture, financed and co-owned by shareholders from the commercial and development sectors: Twin, the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi, Ex-Agris, Cordaid and the Waterloo Foundation. The plant currently has the capacity to produce 4000mt of groundnuts per annum.

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Peanut processing work at the Afri-Nut Ltd facility