The Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture has condemned the government for failing to open up clearly on the progress made in preparations for the 2022/23 Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP).
This also comes against the background that in April this year, President Lazarus Chakwera directed Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe to conclude the AIP preparations by September or lose his job.
The Civil Society Agriculture Network (Csanet) has also warned that “planning to reform AIP during the season is planning to fail.”
The committee’s Chairperson Sameer Suleman said nothing is working as according to the information that his committee has, the country has only16,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser against 400, 000 metric tonnes that are needed.
He went on to say that the beneficiaries were yet to be identified and that the farmers club that were to be used in dispersing the AIP fertiliser were yet to be identified.
“For now, we should say the way things look, there is no AIP, maybe they just want to buy the fertiliser and give it to their people not for Malawians because there is no fertiliser for Malawians, we should say the truth,” Sameer said.
He argued that the Ministry of Agriculture had failed to forge ahead with the programme as by this time of the year the supplier of the commodity could have been known.
“There is a total mess and it is surprising to us that they are so relaxed when people out there do not have hope, they don’t know what they will do because they cannot afford to go in a shop and buy fertiliser,” he said.
Suleman raised fears that the K109 billion pumped into the programme for the coming season would be wasted.
Cisanet National Director Lillian Saka indicated that the network considered AIP as an important programme for farmers regardless of its weaknesses.
“There are farmers who depend on it, and when it does not work, it directly affects their livelihood and at the end of the day farmers get blamed for not utilising AIP effectively,” Saka said.
She said that the anticipated delay was of concern because there would be pressure on both the service providers and the beneficiaries.
Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson Gracian Lungu refused to comment on the matter.
Last year, AIP was marred with several challenges, including some fertiliser suppliers pulling off the programme after disagreeing with government over prices.
In the 2021/2022 growing season, the programme targeted 3.7 million farmers using K142 billion but not all farmers managed to redeem their two bags of fertiliser due to logistical challenges.
Reports indicate that the number of beneficiaries has been reduced by half in the 2022/23 growing season due to the increase in fertiliser cost.
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.