Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Pigeonpea in Mozambique: An Emerging Success story of Crop Expansion in Smallholder Agriculture

We document the rapid emergence of pigeonpea as a smallholder export crop in Mozambique and discuss implications of pigeonpea’s expansion in this study.  An analysis of seven years of nationally and provincially representative rural survey data from 2002 to 2012 and an assessment of pulse production and consumption in India gave the following major results:

1. Pigeonpea production has increased significantly faster than any of the 12 food crops continuously monitored in nationally representative TIA/IAI rural surveys. Robust growth in production at 8% per annum has made pigeonpea potentially more important to the Mozambican small- and medium-sized holder sector than any other crop except for maize and cassava, the major staple food crops. By 2012, more one million rural households were producing pigeonpea on about 250,000 hectares rivaling groundnut and rice in economic importance.  Globally, Mozambique was the 5th largest producer of pigeonpea and the 3rd leading exporter of the crop in 2014.

2. More households cultivating pigeonpea has been the dominant force driving increasing pigeonpea production in Mozambique. Increasing area per growing household is a secondary driver. Rising productivity has not figured prominently in the expansion of production. Even with negligible inputs, pigeonpea is one of the most stable-yielding crops in the smallholder sector in Mozambique. This extensification strategy suits Mozambican production conditions of relative land abundance.

3. Rising import demand from India was the dominant source of growth in pigeonpea production in Mozambique. In 2014, India imported 300 consignments from Mozambique equivalent to 60,000 tonnes valued at about 40 million USD.  Although per capita consumption of pulses is gradually declining in India, both the value and volume of pulse imports are increasing.  The gap between India’s domestic consumption and production is widening.  By 2030, import demand for pigeonpea is projected to double to 1.0 million metric tons. 

4. About 95% of total imports of pigeonpea into India in 2014 were in the form of raw, whole pigeonpea. All of the principal exporters including Myanmar, Tanzania, Malawi, and Mozambique exported small amounts of split (processed) pigeonpea to India in 2014. The import market for India will continue to be dominated by whole grain exports for many years to come. As evidenced a low unit value premium for split pigeonpea, processing in the export countries does not appear to be competitive to dehulling and splitting pigeonpea in India.

5. Tanzania is now and will be into the foreseeable future Mozambique’s main export competitor.  The bulk of African pigeonpea exports to India occur from September to January prior to the harvest of India’s rainy-season crop. The availability of African production is synchronous with the seasonal incidence of high prices in the Indian market. Exports from September to December fetched a high price premium of at least US$150 per metric ton compared to the seasonal low price in February in 2014 of about $US 600 per metric ton. Price premia for quality are substantially smaller than seasonal differences. 

Two aspects of pigeonpea’s expansion warrant more selective investment by the Government of Mozambique and its donor partners to fortify the country’s competitiveness.  There will be few if any producer associations of pigeonpea in Mozambique emerging in the near to medium-term future because pigeonpea is still very much a secondary food cum cash crop that is not amenable to large-scale monocultural production for reasons that are detailed in this study. Additionally, pigeonpea is a crop that has been difficult to intensify.  Both the nature of production and the lack of potential for rapid intensification reinforce the case for continued public-sector support by the Government of Mozambique and its donor partners.  Medium- and large-scale producers cannot be relied on to drive exports. 

Mozambique’s export competitiveness hinges on continuing public-sector investments in road and market infrastructure and selective investments in seed supply and decentralized extension activities. 

The rapid expansion of pigeonpea underscores the need for two simple and straightforward interventions.  First, seed availability of the new medium-duration varieties ICEAP 00554 and 00557, released in 2011, should be markedly increased and distributed to farmers.  These earlier medium-duration varieties have the capacity to escape terminal drought and can increase productivity by several hundred kilograms per hectare.   

Secondly, farmers should have access to information on how to sow pigeonpea as a row intercrop with maize during the planting season and on market prices for pigeonpea during the long period of seasonal exports beginning in May and ending in January.  Production of timely new extension materials, including farmer leaflets and radio messages, and the conduct of demonstration trials in mid-altitude sub-regions of higher production potential should be sufficient to reinforce agronomic activities relevant for sustaining pigeonpea’s market-oriented expansion.