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Coupons deadline missed again

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Government plans to have Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) coupons in the country from the United Kingdom by Tuesday, failed again due to what the government says are logistical challenges and instead will arrive over the weekend.

Fisp National Deputy Coordinator Osborne Tsoka confirmed the development in an interview on Tuesday but said there is no need to panic as the delay will not affect the redemption of the coupons by farmers for the 2016/17 growing season.

This is the second time for the government to miss its own deadlines. Earlier communication from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water Development and Irrigation indicated that the coupons would arrive on October 15, 2016.

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Meanwhile, national coordinator for the Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet), Tamani Nkhono Mvula, has expressed worry over the development, adding that if the delay also affects the importation of farm inputs, because it would be a recipe for disaster.

But Tsoka has indicated that the government is still within its plan and is optimistic that everything would fall into place.

“The coupons have been airlifted from the UK to South Africa. It’s a big consignment, almost two tonnes and requires a big flight. The big SA flight only comes on Sundays [in Lilongwe]. Therefore, the coupons will arrive on November 27th flight number SA 0170. The coupons are for the Southern Region districts but they also include Mchinji for the Central Region and Chitipa for the Northern Region,” he said.

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Tsoka said the next consignment for the remaining districts is expected to be dispatched on November 29 2016 from the UK.

Tsoka added that the ministry expects farmers to continue planting in the next three to four weeks following the onset of the rains, adding that most of the selected suppliers have fertiliser and have already started positioning it in the retail outlets.

“Once our farmers get coupons, the redemption of inputs will immediately commence. It will take the ministry at most three days to distribute coupons to the beneficiaries. I am sure the ministry will be within time,” he said.

However, Nkhono Mvula has said the authorities still need to move with speed to avoid last minute hitches.

“It’s worrisome because if the delay meets the rains and if other inputs have not yet been dispatched to hard-to-reach areas, then we’ll have a problem. I just hope that the delay is only for the coupons because mostly the inputs are needed in those hard-to-reach areas.” he said.

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