About 63 percent of suppliers in the flagship Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) have not yet entered the market to supply inputs to farmers, the Ministry of Agriculture has disclosed.
The development comes at a time many areas in the country have started receiving rains, forcing growers to plant without the much-needed soil-enriching substance.
Briefing reporters in Lilongwe yesterday, Agriculture Minister Lobin Lowe said only about 60 fertiliser suppliers out of the 166 under the AIP had entered the market at a time over 1.4 million people have redeemed their two bags of the commodity.
To date, 143,992 metric tonnes (2,879,840 bags) of fertiliser have been sold. The figure represents 38.8 percent of the 3.7 million targeted farmers in the 2021-22 farming season.
Lowe admitted that this year’s programme was facing three main challenges, among them failure by suppliers to enter the market, the sale of counterfeit fertiliser and the tendency of some beneficiaries who have sold National Identity cards.
He, however, assured Malawians that Smallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund (SFFRFM) and Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc), who are already on the market, would fill the gap.
“Admarc and SFFRFM remain the only reliable suppliers of inputs and this has led to long queues in some shops,” Lowe said.
He stressed that some suppliers from the Fertiliser Suppliers Association had joined the cause, expressing hope that this would help service providers reach out to farmers.
Seventeen companies out of 63 contracted companies for livestock component were also on the ground, he said, further indicating that up to 50 percent of maize seeds had been sold.
Malawi Police Service (MPS) Deputy Commissioner Aubrey Nyirenda said law enforcers had been active on the ground, where they are ensuring that AIP beneficiaries and farm inputs are not abused.
He said, so far, police had recorded 12 cases in relation to the abuse of AIP, saying some of the suspects were in police custody.
For instance, Nyirenda said Matias Bonongwe and his accomplice Willard Buleya were arrested for being suspected of supplying counterfeit fertiliser and were still in the hands of police.
MPS spokesperson James Kadadzera weighed in on the issue, indicating that “200 bags of counterfeit fertiliser have been confiscated” so far.
SFFRFM Chief Executive Officer Andy Kalinde said the institution had 162 outlets from which beneficiaries could access their inputs.
He said, due to demand, SFFRFM had introduced mobile van sales to fill the gap.
“Where the other traders are not available, we are coming in,” he said.
Initially, Admarc had 385 markets before introducing 96 additional markets due to demand.
Some suppliers refused to supply fertiliser to the government after expressing dissatisfaction with the government’s set price of K27, 000 per 50-kilogramme bag.
Mathews Kasanda is a journalist who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from University of Malawi (The Polytechnic).
In 2015, Media Institute of Southern Africa awarded him the Best Print Media Education Journalist of the Year accolade.
He joined Times Group Newsroom in September 2019.