A notification of intention to award contracts published by the Smallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi (SFFRFM) shows that K188.2 billion will be used to procure 185,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser under the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP).
The amount represents a 72.6 percent increase from the K109 billion that was allocated to the programme in the 2022- 23 national budget.
Furthermore, the tonnage is 65,000 metric tonnes shy of the planned 250,000 metric tonnes as indicated in the 2022 -2023 AIP implementation guidelines, which also means that more money is needed.
It is not clear where government will source the extra funding from as Treasury says it will only fund what was allocated in the budget.
And in his address last night on the issues around AIP, President Lazarus Chakwera observed that SFFRFM had blown up the budget, which he said was wrong.
The President did not clearly state how government will proceed in this respect.
The advertisement shows that 92 companies have been selected to supply the commodity to the government under procurement reference number SFFRFM/2022/2023/01.
The procurement process begins a month after a September deadline that President Lazarus Chakwera imposed on fired Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe in April this year to ensure that all modalities pertaining to the programme were concluded.
Despite the rise in the budget, the Ministry of Finance has said it will only be responsible for the K109 billion that was allocated in the budget.
“At this current time, Treasury will only fund what has been approved in the budget by Parliament, which is the K109 billion,” Taurani Banda, spokesperson for the Ministry of Finance said.
An agriculture expert Leonard Chimwaza said the rise in the budget for the AIP fertilizer testifies the impact of the late delivery of subsidy plans.
If government had engaged the suppliers way back then, the budget rise could not have been like it is the case now, he said.
“The government has delayed in engaging both fertilizer and seed suppliers and selection of beneficiaries. Spot checking in all the districts shows that the Ministry (of Agriculture) is yet to finish the process of identifying AIP beneficiaries,” Chimwaza said.
According to him, this will affect the implementation of 2022-23 agricultural calendar.
“With the logistical hiccups that are always there, it is expected that farmers will be accessing the production input while the effective planting rains have been registered. This shall lead to compromising both productivity and quality,” Chimwaza said.
The 2022 AIP has been shrouded in mystery as government has not been forthcoming with information regarding processes being undertaken in the implementation of the programme.