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Affordable Inputs Programme races against time

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Gracian Lungu

Despite the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services announcing that the 2021-22 rainy season started on October 1, the government is yet to identify companies that would supply fertiliser and seeds for this year’s Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP), The Daily Times has learned.

However, Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson Gracian Lungu said the country had 137,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser in stock, further indicating that the fertiliser in question was procured last year.

One hundred and thirty seven thousand metric tonnes translate to 34 percent of the required stocks for this year’s programme.

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“This tonnage has been split between Smallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi (SFFRFM) and Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc); so, as we speak, 34 percent of all the fertiliser we need this year is available,” Lungu said.

He, however, said the list of this year’s suppliers would be released this week and that suppliers would be given one week to either accept or deny the offers based on the prices the government is offering them.

The price of fertiliser has jumped from last year’s K19,500 to closer to K40,000 but the government said it would buy the commodity at the price of K27,000 and beneficiaries will be contributing K7,500 instead of last year’s K4, 495.

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However, Fertiliser Association of Malawi members rejected the price, saying it was not feasible.

But Lungu said if the suppliers decline the offers, the government would procure the remaining tonnage allocated to them and distribute it through SFFRFM and Admarc as well.

“If the suppliers cannot give us the fertiliser, we will turn to other companies, both local and international, who already gave us their quotations. They will buy and distribute the fertiliser through SFFRFM and Admarc,” he said.

This year, the government raised farmers’ contribution for a 50kg bag of fertiliser from K4, 495 to K7,500 while maintaining the number of beneficiaries, which is 3.7 million farmers.

For every 50kg bag of fertiliser, the government will contribute K19,500 and K3,365 for seeds.

Fertiliser Association Executive Administration Officer Mbawaka Phiri said the companies resolved to engage the government further on the matter.

“The members of the association met and most companies say, given the current global prices and logistics as well as the exchange rate [which is now officially at K824 to one United States Dollar and continues to depreciate], the price the government has announced will not be feasible,” he said.

Food security expert Tamani Nkhono Mvula said he would have loved it if discussions were done earlier.

“The list of suppliers and the price negotiations should have been done by June or July so that, by this time, we have input in selling points. The rainy season is here and this is not the time to be compiling the list of suppliers or prices of inputs. When the rains come, many roads in rural areas will be impassable and we will have even more problems this year than we had last year,” he said.

AIP has, in the 2021-22 national budget, been allocated K142 billion, with K124.74 billion being set aside for the procurement of fertiliser.

Under the programme, 30,000 farmers from Nsanje and Chikwawa districts are expected to receive two goats each, instead of fertilizer and seeds, also after contributing K7,500.

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