Over 3.3 million farming households across the country have, so far, each bought two bags of fertiliser under the Affordable Input Programme (AIP), the Ministry of Agriculture has said.
The ministry’s spokesperson Gracious Lungu said, as of Friday, records indicate that 6.6 million bags of fertiliser had been sold to farmers since the onset of AIP implementation in October last year. AIP has 3.6 million beneficiaries.
This is the first year the Tonse Alliance-led administration is implementing the programme, which replaced the Farm Inputs Subsidy Programme (Fisp) — a Democratic Progressive Party brain-child. Fisp had 900,000 beneficiaries.
“We are currently remaining with about 400,000 farming households, or slightly more, to finish this year’s [2020/21] AIP,” Lungu said.
Lungu said the ministry was aware that the programme might have delayed in some areas, a development that has negatively affected farmers that are yet to get fertiliser.
He said, among other factors, delays to deliver fertiliser to designated areas had been caused by the poor road network in some districts.
“In addition to that, some suppliers had no working capital to go flat-out selling fertiliser when the government gave them contracts such that they were relying on bank loans. This also affected their working plan because, by the time they were getting bank loans, it was too late. But we have learnt some lessons, which we believe will greatly help us to improve this year’s programme,” Lungu said.
He said, this year, the ministry planned to use the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation and other suppliers to ensure that the programme runs smoothly.
To catch up with lost time, the ministry has allowed suppliers in districts such as Mangochi, Nkhotakota and Mzimba to adopt mobile vending approach where National Identity cards for beneficiaries are being pre-scanned.
“After pre-scanning, the suppliers are then delivering the fertiliser to farmers on trucks close to their localities as opposed to stocking the commodity in shops which are inaccessible at the moment,” he said.
However the mobile vending system has also proved to be a costly approach to some farmers, who are said to be spending more money on transporting fertiliser from mobile trucks to their respective homes.