The Ministry of Agriculture has announced that it will launch the 2020-21 Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) on Saturday, when farmers are expected to start buying subsidised farm inputs.
The government has since expressed intention to award contracts to suppliers of inputs such as fertiliser and seeds.
Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson Gracian Lungu said the ministry was confident that there would be a steady supply of the commodities once the programme is launched.
Lungu said the successful bidders were supposed to respond to offer letters by today [Tuesday] to indicate if they are interested in taking part in the programme or not.
“Those who are going to accept the offer are going to sign contracts this week but we are launching the programme on the 16th of this month,” he said.
The ministry has already procured 137,000 metric tonnes from the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation and Smallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi.
Farmers Union of Malawi President Frighton Njolomole said it was not too late to launch the programme but advised the ministry to address challenges the programme faced in the last growing season.
“There were many challenges, including network hiccups and long distance covered to selling points of subsidised inputs,” Njolomole said.
The AIP programme will benefit 3.7 million farmers across the country.
Due to the rise in fertiliser prices on the market, the ministry had initially opted to slash the number of beneficiaries to 2.7 million from 3.7 million.
However, President Lazarus Chakwera shot down the proposal, stressing that no name would be removed from the list of beneficiaries.
In order to maintain the number of beneficiaries, the government increased the price of a 50 kilogramme bag of fertiliser under the programme from K4,495 to K7,500.
K142 billion was allocated to AIP in the 2020-21 National budget.
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.