By Mandy Pondani
President Lazarus Chakwera has backed some changes that government has effected in implementation of Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP), describing them as necessary.
He said during the launch of the 2021-22 AIP in Chiradzulu yesterday the changes do not mean his government is no longer fulfilling its promise but are rather aimed at making it better for the benefit of Malawians.
Citing an example of the change in input prices, Chakwera said government makes necessary assessments to ascertain if the changes are responding to the prevailing economic factors while maintaining the goal of making the inputs affordable to farmers.
“Every programme that is designed to serve Malawians goes through changes. Change is not just inevitable but healthy and necessary. Change is evidence that something is alive and growing… The kind of thinking that resists change is retrogressive,” Chakwera said.
Among some of the price changes is that of fertiliser which has risen from K4,495 last year to K7,500 per 50 kilogramme bag in the 2021-22 growing season.
The President said depending on emerging issues such as the state of investments, irrigation, agriculture commercialisation, livestock development and agro-processing, more changes will have to be made to the programme.
He added that his government has an exit plan for AIP which is to increase the incomes of the beneficiary farmers so that they are eventually able to afford commercial prices of the inputs.
Commenting on the country’s general social-economic performance, Chakwera called for patience among Malawians, saying he appreciates that some of the recent decisions like the raise in the fuel prices are hard to bear.
“We are doing everything possible to correct the past mistakes; trust me some of these decisions that have just been implemented, I pleaded for their cushioning some months ago, but that has proven to be a bit problematic because our challenges are deeper than that.
“But you can trust my word that a better Malawi is nigh. Just hang on in there with my administration,” Chakwera said.
Giving an update on the status of AIP, Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe said his ministry has worked at resolving most of the hitches that the programme faced last year.
He ruled out incidences of people spending nights in long queues this year, saying the network challenges have been dealt with.
“Issues of accessibility of the inputs have also been taken care of. Admarc has been tasked to go to all hard-to-reach areas. As I speak, they are engaging with Malawi Defence Force on that; no deserving farmer will be left out,” Lowe said.
Government announced that it will buy AIP fertiliser from suppliers at a capped price of K27,000 while beneficiaries will contribute K7,500.